Mr. Marduk with a Tamed Dragon-type Critter. An artist's rendering of an ancient Babylonian seal.

Enuma Elish 

In the beginning there was nothing. Not even gods.  Just a bunch of water everywhere.  The fresh waters, named Apsu, “intermingled” (if you catch my drift) with the salt waters, named Tiamat. Soon after they began having babies, and their babies had babies, and these babies were the gods.  One of these gods was named Anu, the sky.  He had a son, named Nudimmud.  Each generation was a little bit bigger and better.

There was a big problem with all of these children and grandchildren.  They were noisy and raucous.  What was especially troubling is that they all lived inside of Tiamat’s belly.  (Remember, the world had not been created yet).  They had these parties together, dancing and what not, and it just gave poor Tiamat a tummy-ache.  “The gods of that generation would meet together and disturb Tiamat, and their clamour reverberated.  They stirred up Tiamat’s belly, they were annoying her by playing inside Anduruna.” (All direct translations are fromStephanie Dalley’s translation Enuma Elish in Myths from Mesopotamia:  Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh and Others.  Oxford University Press, Oxford:  1991).

Finally, Apsu got fed up with all the racket.  Enough was enough.  He had a meeting with his wife and Mummu, his vizier.  “Listen, honey.  These brats are driving me up the wall.  Let’s get rid of them.”

Tiamat, not surprisingly, wasn’t happy to hear what her husband wanted to do to the little darlings.  “How could you think of such a thing?  Shame on you!”  But Mummu, who hadn’t had a good night’s sleep in weeks, egged him on, and the two of them made plans to do in all of the gods and get some peace and rest.

Somebody ratted on them, though.  Nudimmud, (who is usually called Ea), heard what they were up to, and decided on a counter-attack.  He was a smart little cuss, and especially skilled in the magic arts.  He worked up a spell, and spoke it over Apsu.  The spell stilled his waters, and he fell asleep.  Mummu found himself in a waking stupor, unable to do anything.  Ea approached the immobilized Apsu, took all of his royal gear for his own, and killed him.  He bound Mummu up with a nose-rope and threw him on top of Apsu’s dead body.  Then he established his dwelling place upon Mummu.  That’s why Ea is often given the surname “who dwells above the apsu.”  (I know you’ve been dying to know just why that is).  When everything was finished, Ea kicked back and had some well-deserved rest.  (I hope that you’re catching the irony in all of this).

Ea and his wife, Damkina, had a baby.  Now, this kid was simply amazing.  I mean, he was a real three-days’ wonder.  

“His limbs were ingeniously made beyond comprehension, impossible to understand, too difficult to perceive.  Four were his eyes, four were his ears; when his lips moved, fire blazed forth.  The four ears were enormous and likewise the eyes; they perceived everything.  Highest among the gods, his form was outstanding.  His limbs were very long, his height (?) outstanding.”

They called him Marduk.

Anu proved to be a doting grandfather.  He prepared a special gift for him, the four winds.  (Remember, he was the sky-god).  Marduk was delighted.  He used them to create storms.  He made dust, and then made dust-storms.  He blew the dust into Tiamat’s water and made mud.

That was the last straw.  Some of the older gods came to Tiamat, and complained.  “When Apsu was killed, you just sat back and watched.  Now look what’s happening.  You heave to and fro night and day.  What’s a guy got to do to get some sleep around here?”

Tiamat was not difficult to convince this time around.  Her motherly sentiments had worn thin.  She got an evil gleam in her eye, and set about building an army.  There were eleven different kinds of monsters in her entourage, things like fish-men, demonic water-buffalo, and don’t forget the mushmahhu-dragons.  (With venom for blood!  Shudder!).  When all was said and done, she approached a lesser god named Qingu and promoted him as her spouse.  She gave him the tablet of destinies, and attached it to his chest.  Now he was the head honcho.

Ea caught wind of all of this, and was naturally quite distressed.  He went to Anshar, his grandfather, and reported to him what was going on.  It’s hard to make out everything at this point, but there seems to be a bit of an argument over who should go to Tiamat to appease or defeat her.  

“You are especially mighty, Anshar.  You should rescue us.”  

“But you’re so wise Ea.  Surely you can outwit her.”

Finally they settled on a solution.  Anu would go to her.

Anu came back in defeat, and they became even more terrified.  Who would go next?  Ea had an idea.  His son Marduk was easily the most powerful among them.  He should go.  He asked Marduk to approach Anshar as a volunteer.

Marduk readily agreed.  He placed one stipulation on his participation in the plan, however.  If he should come back victorious, he would be ruler of the gods.  “Whatever I create shall never be altered!  The decree of my lips shall never be revoked, never changed!”

Before sending Marduk to battle, Anshar invited all of the gods to a banquet. 

 “… all the great gods who fix the fates, entered into Anshar’s presence and were filled with joy.  Each kissed the other:  in the assembly [   ] there was conversation, they sat at the banquet, ate grain, drank choice wine, let sweet beer trickle through their drinking straws.  Their bodies swelled as they drank the liquor; they became very carefree, they were merry, and they decreed destiny for Marduk their champion.”

Now Marduk got ready for battle.  He marshalled the four winds he had received from his grandfather, along with several others of his own devising.  He mounted the storm-chariot, and he was off.

Tiamat proved to be a formidable enemy.  She taunted Marduk and tried to confuse him, and it almost worked.  Marduk shook off her spell, however, and summoned her to single combat.  She fell upon him in a rage, but he caught her in his net and blew his winds into her mouth.  She blew up like a balloon.  He drew an arrow, fired it at her, and pop!  She was dead.

With Tiamat defeated, Marduk made short work of her mob of monsters, and enslaved them in his service.  He defeated Qingu and took the tablet of destinies for his very own.  Then he cut Tiamat in half.  Part of her he left where she was, to be the sea.  The other half he fixed as a roof for the sky.  Then he set about putting the rest of the cosmos in order.

He created shrines for the gods.  Then, returning to the half of Tiamat’s corpse which was suspended above, he went about constructing the heavens.  He made stars and the sun and the moon, and fashioned the calendar along with them.  With the half below he created things like springs and mountains.  Then he returned in victory to the joyous reception of the gods.

His next project was creating a creature who should serve them, that they might not have to work at all.  Qingu was brought out, and as a penalty for his partnership with Tiamat, he was chosen as the victim from whose blood mankind would be fashioned.

The last stage was building a beautiful home for himself.  He built a ziggurat, and called it bab-ili, the gate of the gods.  (This is the origin of the name “Babylon”).

When all was set in order, the gods celebrated with another banquet in Marduk’s finished home.  They praised him, pronounced his fifty divine names, and they all lived happily ever after.  The end.