Tiamat

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The Mother of the Gods in Assyrian mythology. She was the first primordial entity, the dragon of chaos, and the female personification of water. Her counterpart is the being Apsu. She is salt water while he is fresh. From the union of Tiamat and Apsu, gods were born.

The Enuma Elish, the Babylonian creation myth, speaks of a war between Tiamat and Apsu, and their progeny. One of the gods Merodach[1], the son of Ea (the god of the river and sea), rises to challenge Tiamat, eventually killing her. He takes her body and uses it to form the heavens and earth. As a result, he is crowned ruler of the gods.

Contents

From Dr. Paul Carus's The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil[2]

"It is probable that all the old Chaldean legends[3] existed in several versions. Of the creation story we possess two accounts which vary considerably; but one of them, which is narrated on seven tablets [4], is of special interest to us, not only on account of its being the main source of the first chapter of the Old Testament, but also because we possess in it one of the oldest documents in which the existence of the Evil One is mentioned. He is called in Assyrian 'Tiamtu', i.e., the deep, and is represented as the serpent that beats the sea, the serpent of the night, the serpent of darkness, the wicket serpent, and the mighty and strong serpent..."

"Tiamat is the original watery chaos from which heaven and earth were generated. Babylonian philosophers see in it the mother of the world and the source of all things, which in mythology it appears as the representative of disorder and the mother of the monsters of the deep..."

From Professor Sayce's Records of the Past, New Series, Vol. I

"[Before the beginning of time], the heavens and earth had not yet been created, and since the name was supposed to be the same as the thing named, their names had not as yet been pronounced. A water chaos alone, existed, Mummu Tiamat, 'the chaos of the deep'. Out of the bosom of this chaos proceeded the gods as well as the created world..."

"...before the younger gods could find a suitable habitation for themselves and their creation, it was necessary to destroy 'the dragon' of chaos with all her monstrous offspring. The task was undertaken by the Babylonian sun-god Merodach, the son of Ea..."

"...Light was introduced into the world, and it only remained to destroy Tiamat herself...Tiamat was slain and her allies put in bondage... The visible heaven was formed out of the skin of Tiamat..."

"...the Assyrian epic of the creation bears a striking resemblance to the account of it given in the first chapter of Genesis. In each case the history of the creation is divided into seven successive acts; in each case the present world has been preceded by a water chaos. In fact the self-same word is used of this chaos in both the Biblical and Assyrian accounts — tehom, Tiamat — the only difference being that in the Assyrian story 'the deep' has become a mythological personage, the mother of a chaotic brood... but the two accounts also differ in some important particulars... the most important difference consists in the interpolation of the struggle between Merodach and the powers of evil, as a consequence of which light was introduced into the universe, and the firmament of the heavens was formed."

The Tiamat bears a striking resemblance to the biblical sea serpent Leviathan.

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References

  1. Chaldeans — "Neo-Babylonians" (612–539 BC). Semitic people who dominated Mesopotamia after the fall of Assyrian power. Nebuchadnezzar II was the son and successor of the first Chaldean chief Nabopolassar. He was responsible for deportation of thousands of Jews to the city of Babylon after conquering Jerusalem, marking the beginning of the Jewish Exile (586 BC). In Biblical text, the prophet Daniel was one of those captives brought into Babylon (further reading: the Book of Daniel)
  2. Carus, Paul, Dr. History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil, The, New York: Gramercy Books. ISBN 0-51715-064-6.
  3. The Enuma Elish was written onto seven tablets, which were found in the mid 1800s, in the library of an Assyrian king who lived before the destruction of the Assyrian empire. It has similarity to the story of creation in the Book of Genesis in that there were 6 days of creation (accounting for 6 tablets), and one day for the exaltation of the handiwork of the babylonian god (in Genesis, the seventh day is God's day of rest).
  4. Or Bel-Maduk. In the Book of Daniel, Daniel was presented with the name Belteshazzar, after the name "Bel" as a gift from Nebuchadnezzer for interpreting his dreams.
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