Enûma Eliš

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Depiction of Marduk battling against Tiamat

Enûma Eliš (in Italian "When high"), theogonic and cosmogonic poem, in the Akkadian language, belonging to the Babylonian religious tradition.

It begins:


When Up There | The sky had no name yet, | And down here the dry land | She wasn't called by a name yet, | Suns, Apsû-the-first, | Their progenitor, | And Mother (?) – Tiamat, | Parent to them all, | They mixed together | Their waters: | Nor were any banks of reeds yet clustered there Nor were there any reeds distinguishable. (I, 1-6)


  • As Anšar had made like him | Anu, his scion, | Anu equally, in his own likeness, | He created (Ea-) Nudimmud. | Now, Nudimmud, he, | Future organizer (?) of his parents, | He was of broad intellect, wise | He is endowed with immense strength; | Much more powerful | Of his father's creator, Anšar, | He had no equal, | Compared with his brother gods. Having therefore formed a band, | These god-brothers | They disturbed Tiamat | Surrendering to the hustle and bustle (?): | Shocking | The interior of Tiamat, | They disturbed, with their entertainment, | The interior of the «Divine Abode». (I, 15-24)
  • Template:NDR His nature was exuberant; | His withering gaze; | He was a made man from birth, | And full of strength from the beginning. (I, 87-88)
  • Template:NDR His shapes are incredible, | Admirable: | Impossible to imagine, | Unbearable to watch. | Four are his eyes, | And his ears are four. | When he moves his lips, | The Fire blazes! | Four ears | They're ticked off, | And his eyes, in equal number, | They inspect the Universe! (An, I, 93-98)
  • Tiamat, having therefore | Incited his progeny, | Gathered troops for battle | Against the gods, his offspring! | By now (?), [more] than Apsû. | Tiamat showed herself to be wicked! (II, 1-3)
  • Template:NDR The Mother-Abyss, | Who formed everything, | He has prepared Irresistible Weapons: | He brought giant dragons into the world | With sharp teeth, | From the ruthless (?) fangs, | Whose body he filled | Of poison instead of blood; | And Leviathans ferocious, | To which he gave a frightening appearance And surrounded with supernatural splendor, | Thus equating them to the gods: | "Whoever sees them (he said) | Lose his senses! | And let them once launched, | Let them never retreat!" | He created Idre again, | Formidable dragons, Sea monsters, | Colossal Lions, | Rabid molossians, Scorpion men, | Aggressive monsters, | Fishmen, Gigantic Bisons: | Wielding all merciless weapons | And without fear of combat; | Their delegated powers, immeasurable, | And they, irresistible! (Ea, II, 19-31)
  • In the Deliberation Hall, | Sit happily together | And ensure that, with a word, on your behalf, | I fix destinies: | That nothing has changed | Of what I will have. | And that every order uttered by my lips | May it remain irreversible and irrevocable! (Marduk, II, 146-150?)
  • Oh Marduk, only you emerge | Among the Great Gods! | Your destiny is unmatched, | Your command, sovereign! | From now on, | Your orders will be irrevocable! | Raise or tear down | It will be in your power! | What comes out of your mouth will come true, | Your command will never be deceptive! | None, among the gods, | It will go beyond the limits you set! | And like our places of worship | You will have your assigned seat | In all our sanctuaries! | Oh Marduk, to you alone, | Our avenger, | We have conferred Kingship | On the totality of the Universality around! (IV, 5-4)
  • Having therefore faced | Tiamat and Marduk, the Wise among the gods, | They entwined in the fight | And they joined in melee! | But the Lord, having spread his Net, | He wrapped it in you, | Then he cast the evil Wind against her, | Which he kept in the rear. | And when Tiamat had opened | The mouth, to swallow it, | The evil Wind poured into it | To prevent her from closing her lips. | All the Winds, with fury, | Then they filled her belly, | So that his body was swollen, | His mouth wide open. | Then he launched his Arrow | And he tore her chest, | He divided her body in half, | And he opened her belly. | Thus he triumphed over her, | Ending his life. | Then he threw the body to the ground And he stood there. (IV, 93-104)
  • With a fresh mind, the Lord | He contemplated Tiamat's corpse: | He wanted to cut off the monstrous flesh | To make beautiful things out of it. | He cut her in two, | Like a fish to be dried, | And he arranged half of it | Which curved like the Sky. | He stretched the skin, | On which he installed guardians | To whom he entrusted the mission | To prevent its waters from bursting. (IV, 135-140)
  • Then the Head of Tiamat was placed, | He piled you on top of a mountain Where he opened a Source | (In which) a River trembled. | He opened in his eyes | The Euphrates and the Tigris. (V, 53-55)
  • Al di sopra dell'Apsû | Dimora che voi occupate; | Come copia dell'Ešarra | Che io stesso ho costruito per voi, | Ma più in basso: in un luogo | Di cui ho consolidato la base, | Voglio costruirmi un Tempio | Che sarà la mia Dimora preferita, | In mezzo al quale | Impianterò il mio Santuario | E assegnerò i miei appartamenti, | Per stabilirvi il mio regno. | Quando voi lascerete l'Apsû, | Per salire all'Ass[embl]ea, | Quella sarà la vostra sosta, | Per ricevervi tutti insieme; | Quando lascerete il Cielo | Per scendere all'[Assemblea]; | Quella sarà la vostra sosta, | Per ricevervi tutti insieme! | [Gli] darò il nome di "Babilonia: | Il Tempio dei Grandi dèi". (Marduk, V, 119-129)
  • Voglio condensare del sangue, | Costituire un'ossatura | E creare così un Prototipo umano, | Che si chiamerà "Uomo"! | Questo Prototipo, questo Uomo, | Voglio crearlo | Perché gli siano imposte le fatiche degli dèi | E che essi abbiano tempo libero. (Marduk, VI, 5-8)



Such is the revelation that an Elder, | In front of whom it had been exposed, | He put and fixed in writing, | To teach it to posterity! | [The exploits (?)] of Marduk | Who created the gods Igigi, | [Let it be told to her (?)], | Pronouncing his Name, | [And let us chant (?)] | The Song of Marduk | [Who], after striking down Tiamat, | He received sovereign Power.

Quotes about Enūma Eliš:

  • It could not be admitted without damaging the truth that there is anything in common between the polytheistic expressions of the Babylonian story and the strictly monotheistic ones of the Holy Scripture. But, as for the poetically representative way of weaving the cosmogonic tale, certain parallels between the Babylonian poem and the first chapter of Genesis are so undeniable and evident that it is useless for us to continue to dwell on them. The primitive existence of an oceanic Chaos, precisely called tehôm-tiamat, whose property is confusion and darkness [...] its division into two parts, one to form the sky, the other earth, is a parallelism so close that it cannot be said to be the result of chance in any way. (Salvatore Minocchi)
  • The'Enûma eliš had the same function during the New Year celebration that every hymn to the god had during ceremonies in the temple. The poem is also a grandiose hymn, in which abundant biographical passages of the god are included. They remind the god of his great deeds and invite him to do something great again in favor of the one who recites the hymn. The god who saved his fellow gods from evil beings will certainly want to save his faithful now!
  • The purpose of the recitation Template:NDR was first of all this: to narrate, to make the great deeds of the god Marduk well known to all, to praise the just as he, as a young and insignificant son of Ea had managed through his great valor to gain first place in the Babylonian pantheon, and thereby in a certain sense motivate the celebration of the festival.
  • We cannot say anything about the author of the grandiose poem, since in the numerous Mesopotamian texts in cuneiform characters made public so far no information can be found about him, and probably never will be found, as the Babylonians have annexed very little or no importance to the property literature and the belonging of works of literature to this or that artist, just as they have never taken care to pass on to posterity the names of their most famous sculptors, carvers of bas-reliefs and seals, painters, and builders of palaces and temples.
  • The whole epic story, and in particular the conflict of Marduk and Tiāmat, have an astral meaning, and certain traits in which we are not yet able to see it must also have it. Unfortunately we do not know exactly which events in the starry sky the poem depicts: we do not yet know its true astral meaning. However, since the Babylonian and Assyrian religion acquired this character to an ever greater degree only as time progressed, we must assume that originally the poem reflected a mythical event of a fundamentally different character, some natural, cosmic event. Behind the gods-people there should therefore be natural gods-phenomena, and especially behind the conflict between Marduk and Tiāmat, which is the central and culminating point of the mythical action. In other words: what physical event represents this conflict? A natural fact interpreted as a divine adventure and transferred to the origins? Here too the answer is not easy. One might suppose that it was a question of depicting the struggle of spring with winter or that of the sun and light with darkness, but Marduk was never truly a solar god, any more than Aššūr was, or that Tiāmat and his offspring would represent the fury of the elements, of the rain and the storm, the rainy and stormy season, which in a region like that of the Valley of the Two Rivers causes destruction, until in spring the sun triumphs over the bad weather: Marduk would therefore represent the sun of spring, and the world would begin this very season. Tiāmat instead represents winter and night and also disorderly chaos, according to the view of the various theological schools of the country and also of the Babylonians and Assyrians of different eras.


  • J. Bottero - S.N. Kramer, Men and Gods of Mesopotamia, Einaudi Milan 1992, pp. 642-695

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