Tiamat

In Babylonian and Sumerian mythology, Tiamat is the sea, personified as a goddess, and a monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos.[1] In the Enûma Elish, the Babylonian epic of creation, she gives birth to the first generation of gods; she later makes war upon them and is split in two by the storm-god Marduk, who uses her body to form the heavens and the earth. She was known as Thalattē (the Greek word for "sea") in the Hellenistic Babylonian Berossus' first volume of history.

Her name seems ultimately to have been a Sumerian one, as in that language ti = Life, and ama = Mother, suggesting her original name may have been "the mother of all life".[2] Walter Burkert argues for a connection with the Akkadian word for sea tâmtu, via a conjectured form tiamtu.[3][4] The Babylonian epic Enuma Elish begins "When above" the heavens did not yet exist nor the earth below, Apsu the freshwater ocean was there, "the first, the begetter", and Tiamat, the saltwater sea, "she who bore them all"; they were "mixing their waters".

This "mixing of the waters" is a natural feature of the middle Persian Gulf, where fresh waters from the Arabian aquifer mix and mingle with the salt waters of the sea.[citation needed] This characteristic is especially true of the region of Bahrain (whose name means in Arabic, "twin waters"), which is thought[attribution needed] to be the site of Dilmun, the original site of the Sumerian creation.

Though Tiamat is often described by modern authors as a sea serpent or dragon, no ancient texts exist in which there is a clear association with those kind of creatures. Though the Enûma Elish specifically states that Tiamat did give birth to dragons and serpents, they are included among a larger and more general list of monsters including scorpion men and merpeople, none of which imply that any of the children look like the mother or are even limited to aquatic creatures.

Within the Enûma Elish her physical description includes, a tail, a thigh, "lower parts" (which shake together), a belly, an udder, ribs, a neck, a head, a skull, eyes, nostrils, a mouth, and lips. She has insides, a heart, arteries, and blood.

The depiction of Tiamat as a multi-headed dragon was popularized in the 1970s as a fixture of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game thanks to earlier sources associating Tiamat with later mythological characters such as Lotan and others.

Apsu (or Abzu, from Sumerian Ab = water, Zu = far) fathered upon Tiamat the Elder Gods Lahmu and Lahamu (the "muddy"), a title given to the gatekeepers at the Enki Abzu temple in Eridu. Lahmu and Lahamu, in turn, were the parents of the axis or pivot of the heavens (Anshar, from An = heaven, Shar = axle or pivot) and the earth (Kishar), and Anshar and Kishar were considered to meet on the horizon, becoming thereby the parents of Anu and Ki. Tiamat was the "shining" personification of salt water who roared and smote in the chaos of original creation. She and Apsu filled the cosmic abyss with the primeval waters. She is "Ummu-Hubur who formed all things".

In the myth, the god Enki (later Ea) believed correctly that Apsu, upset with the chaos they created, was planning to murder the younger gods; and so slew him. This angered Kingu, their son, who reported the event to Tiamat, whereupon she fashioned monsters to battle the gods. These were her own offspring: giant sea serpents, storm demons, fish-men, scorpion-men and many others. Tiamat possessed the Tablets of Destiny, and in the primordial battle she gave them to Kingu, the god she had chosen as her lover and the leader of her host. The Gods gathered in terror, but Anu, (replaced later first by Enlil and, in the late version that has survived after the First Dynasty of Babylon, by Marduk, the son of Ea), first extracting a promise that he would be revered as "king of the Gods", overcame her, armed with the arrows of the winds, a net, a club, and an invincible spear.

And the lord stood upon Tiamat's hinder parts,
And with his merciless club he smashed her skull.
He cut through the channels of her blood,
And he made the North wind bear it away into secret places.
Slicing Tiamat in half, he made from her ribs the vault of heaven and earth. Her weeping eyes became the source of the Tigris and the Euphrates. With the approval of the elder gods, he took from Kingu the Tablets of Destiny, installing himself as the head of the Babylonian pantheon. Kingu was captured and was later slain with his red blood mixed with the red clay of the Earth to make the body of humankind, created to act as the servant of the younger Igigi Gods.

There is evidence that the Babylonian version of the story is based upon a slightly modified version of an older Epic in which Enlil, not Marduk, was the God who slew Tiamat. [5]

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