ebih-il_louvre_ao17551_n03It is the fourth day of the month Nisan in Babylon, capital of Mesopotamia, and the New Year Festival is in full swing.

In the late afternoon the urigallu priest of Esagila, the Temple that Raises its Head, is preparing for what many consider to be the most important part of the festival. When he has partaken of the second meal of the late afternoon, he collects the seven sacred clay tablets and enters the Palace of Heaven and Earth.

The walls of the Seat of Kingship gleam with gold, glow with deep blue lapis-lazuli and shine with pure white alabaster. Delicate silver ornaments adorn the floor and in the centre stands the golden statue of Marduk, supreme god of Babylon and thus of the entire world.

The urigallu priest raises his hand and begins to read from the first clay tablet:

Enuma elish la nabu shamamu,
Shaplish ammatum shuma la zakrat…

When heaven on high had not yet been named,
Nor had solid Earth below been called by name,
Then was naught but primordial Apsu, he who begot them,
And Mummu Tiamat, she who bore them all.

Over the next hour, as he reads the story engraved upon those seven clay tablets, the urigallu priest of Esagila recapitulates the creation of the Universe, the birth of the gods, the disputes between them and the creation of heaven and Earth from the dead body of Tiamat, the triumph of the god Marduk and the creation of mankind to serve him.

Why was this annual recapitulation of the history of the Universe so important to the Babylonians?

Its main intent was political, to establish the right of Marduk (and therefore of his city Babylon) to rule over all Mesopotamia. But it was also important for the Babylonians to be reminded of where they came from. Throughout history, societies have created their own myths of creation. There seems to be a widespread need among mankind to understand our origins.

Perhaps this is not surprising. The world is complex; life can be hard and painful. At some point in our lives we all ask fundamental questions, such as: “Why am I here?”, “Where did I come from?” and “Where am I going?”

We think that people still need to know the answers to these questions. Indeed, it is even more important today, now that we have so much more power in our hands than the Babylonians. And, at least in those countries with a working democratic government, this power is ultimately in the hands of us, the people. So it is us, rather than the king or the gods, who need to be told this story of creation.

The story we tell here incorporates the latest ideas about the origin and history of the universe, from its creation to the present day, and uses the lessons of that story to make some predictions about the future. On this site we condense the story down to its essentials. In our sister site, History of the Universe, we tell the story in much more detail.


Comments

Enuma Elish — No Comments

  1. I have studied over 25 copies of the Enuma Elish.
    They are almost all the same
    No one could ever convince me that this is not a Story of the creation of our Solar System.

    Apzu is our Star.
    Wherefore the Father of all is God, the Creator is the Sun, and the Cosmos is the instrument of his creative power. His spiritual substance governs the heavens, the heavens govern the gods, and the powers, which are appointed by the gods, govern men. This is the host of gods and powers.

    Through these instruments God by Himself creates all this, and all things partake of God; since this is so, they are God. Therefore in creating all things, he creates Himself; and He can never cease to create, for He Himself never ceases to be. As God has no end, so His handiwork has neither beginning nor end. The Tools of GOD http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2009/galactic/

  2. Hello, Nibbie,

    I like what you stated: “No one could ever convince that this is not a Story of the creation of our Solar System.”

    I approached the Enuma via its formal features to maintain a more objective stance of thematic analysis: my conclusion is in harmony with your aforesaid view.

    But long ahead of my modest work was the late Zecharia Sitchin who, in spite of his detractors, really offered to us such an interpretation in his 1976 book, The Twelfth Planet. But all that his detractors said was that the guy was “not a qualified language scholar…” Well…his analysis was “in the heights” far above the minds of most scholars we know.

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