Enuma Elish: Mother of all, why did you have to mother war?

Discord broke out among the gods although they were brothers, warring and jarring in the belly of Tiamat, heaven shook, it reeled with the surge of the dance. (Enuma Elish, Tablet 1)


But now the other gods had no rest any more, tormented by storms, they conspired in their secret hearts and brought to Tiamat the matter of their plot. To their own mother they said,
'When they killed Apsu you did not stir, you brought no help to him, your husband. Now Anu has called up from the four quarters this abomination of winds to rage in your guts, and we cannot rest for the pain;
Remember Apsu in your heart, your husband, remember Mummu who was defeated; now you are all alone, and thrash around in desolation, and we have lost your love, our eyes ache and we long for sleep.
'Rise up, our Mother! Pay them back and make them empty like the wind.'
Tiamat approved it, she said,
'I approve this advice: we will make monsters, and monsters and gods against gods will march into battletogether.'
Together they jostle the ranks to march with Tiamat, day and night furiously they plot, the growling roaring rout, ready for battle, while the old hag, the first mother, mothers a new brood.
She loosed the irresistible missile, she spawned enormous serpents with cutting fangs, chock-full of venom instead of blood, snarling dragons wearing their glory like gods.
(Enuma Elish, Tablet 1)


He [Marduk] took his route towards the rising sound of Tiamat's rage, and all the gods besides, the fathers of the gods pressed in around him, and the lord approached Tiamat.
He surveyed her, scanning the deep, he sounded the plan of Kingu her consort; but so soon as Kingu sees him he falters, flusters, and the friendly gods who filled the ranks beside him - when they saw the brave hero, their eyes suddenly blurred.
But Tiamat without turning her neck roared, spitting defiance from bitter lips,
'Upstart, do you think yourself too great? Are they scurrying now from their holes to yours?'
Then the lord raised the hurricane, the great weapon, and he flung his words at the termagant fury, 'Why are you rising, your pride vaulting, your heart set on faction, so that sons reject fathers? Mother of all, why did you have to mother war? You made that bungler your husband, Kingu! You gave him the rank, not his by right, of Anu. You have abused the gods my ancestors, in bitter malevolence you threaten Anshar, the king of all the gods. You have marshaled forces for battle, prepared the war-tackle. Stand up alone and we will fight it you, you and I alone in battle.'
When Tiamat heard him her wits scattered, she was possessed and shrieked aloud, her legs shook from the crotch down, she gabbled spells, muttered maledictions, while the gods of war sharpened their weapons.
Then they met: Marduk, that cleverest of gods, and Tiamat grappled alone in single fight.
(Enuma Elish, Tablet 4)


a) The Enuma Elish is the Babylonian mythical cycle which has parallels with the earlier Sumerian and later Hebrew and Greek traditions. The gigantomachia plays has an important role in all (though this is naturally muted in the monotheistic Bible).

b) Tiamat is the original mother, chaos, fresh water, the underground. Apsu is the original father, husband of Tiamat; he is the salt water and the depths of the sea. Mumma is the craftsman god and advisor to Apsu, perhaps his 'thought'. Anu, lord of the sky, is Apsu's grandson and the son of Anshar, the heavens.

c) Just as in Greek myth, there is discord between the generations of the gods and it is the third generation which comes to power through a war in which the powers of the sky overthrow those of the earth.

d) Kingu is the new husband of Tiamat, and the commander of her forces, after the murder of Apsu.

e) Marduk is the grandson of Anu who fights and destroys Tiamat when the other gods of the sky fear to do so.

f) "Mother of all, why did you have to mother war?" Compare Achilles (Iliad, Bk 18): "I wish that strife (eris) would vanish away from among the gods and mortals."

July 19, 2004 in Gigantomachia/Titanomachia | Permalink