Tiamat

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Neo-Assyrian cylinder seal impression from the eighth century BC identified by several sources as a possible depiction of the slaying of Tiamat from the Enuma Elis Tiamat.JPG
Neo-Assyrian cylinder seal impression from the eighth century BC identified by several sources as a possible depiction of the slaying of Tiamat from the Enûma Eliš

In the religion of ancient Babylon, Tiamat (Akkadian : 𒀭𒋾𒊩𒆳 D TI.AMAT or 𒀭𒌓𒌈 D TAM.TUM, Greek: Θαλάττη Thaláttē) [3] is a primordial goddess of the salt sea, mating with Abzû, the god of fresh water, to produce younger gods. She is the symbol of the chaos of primordial creation. She is referred to as a woman, [4] and described as the glistening one. [5] It is suggested that there are two parts to the Tiamat mythos, the first in which Tiamat is a creator goddess, through a sacred marriage between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second Chaoskampf Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos. [6] Some sources identify her with images of a sea serpent or dragon. [7]

Babylonian religion

Babylonian religion is the religious practice of Babylonia. Babylonian mythology was greatly influenced by their Sumerian counterparts, and was written on clay tablets inscribed with the cuneiform script derived from Sumerian cuneiform. The myths were usually either written in Sumerian or Akkadian. Some Babylonian texts were translations into Akkadian from the Sumerian language of earlier texts, although the names of some deities were changed.

Akkadian language extinct Semitic language

Akkadian is an extinct East Semitic language that was spoken in ancient Mesopotamia from the 30th century BC until its gradual replacement by Akkadian-influenced Old Aramaic among Mesopotamians by the eighth century BC.

<i>Dingir</i> cuneiform sign

Dingir is a Sumerian word for "god." Its cuneiform sign is most commonly employed as the determinative for religious names and related concepts, in which case it is not pronounced and is conventionally transliterated as a superscript "D" as in e.g. DInanna.

Contents

In the Enûma Elish , the Babylonian epic of creation, she gives birth to the first generation of deities; her husband, Apsu, correctly assuming they are planning to kill him and usurp his throne, later makes war upon them and is killed. Enraged, she, too, wars upon her husband's murderers, taking on the form of a massive sea dragon, she is then slain by Enki's son, the storm-god Marduk, but not before she had brought forth the monsters of the Mesopotamian pantheon, including the first dragons, whose bodies she filled with "poison instead of blood". Marduk then forms heavens and the earth from her divided body.

Epic poetry lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily detailing heroic deeds

An epic poem, epic, epos, or epopee is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily involving a time beyond living memory in which occurred the extraordinary doings of the extraordinary men and women who, in dealings with the gods or other superhuman forces, gave shape to the moral universe that their descendants, the poet and his audience, must understand to understand themselves as a people or nation.

Creation myth Symbolic narrative of how the world began and how people first came to inhabit it

A creation myth is a symbolic narrative of how the world began and how people first came to inhabit it. While in popular usage the term myth often refers to false or fanciful stories, members of cultures often ascribe varying degrees of truth to their creation myths. In the society in which it is told, a creation myth is usually regarded as conveying profound truths, metaphorically, symbolically and sometimes in a historical or literal sense. They are commonly, although not always, considered cosmogonical myths—that is, they describe the ordering of the cosmos from a state of chaos or amorphousness.

Enki god in Sumerian mythology

Enki is the Sumerian god of water, knowledge (gestú), mischief, crafts (gašam), and creation (nudimmud), and one of the Anunnaki. He was later known as Ea in Akkadian and Babylonian mythology. He was originally patron god of the city of Eridu, but later the influence of his cult spread throughout Mesopotamia and to the Canaanites, Hittites and Hurrians. He was associated with the southern band of constellations called stars of Ea, but also with the constellation AŠ-IKU, the Field. Beginning around the second millennium BCE, he was sometimes referred to in writing by the numeric ideogram for "40", occasionally referred to as his "sacred number". The planet Mercury, associated with Babylonian Nabu was, in Sumerian times, identified with Enki.

Etymology

Thorkild Jacobsen [8] and Walter Burkert both argue for a connection with the Akkadian word for sea, tâmtu , following an early form, ti'amtum. [9] Burkert continues by making a linguistic connection to Tethys. The later form Θαλάττη (thaláttē), which appears in the Hellenistic Babylonian writer Berossus' first volume of universal history, is clearly related to Greek Θάλαττα (thálatta), an Eastern variant of Θάλασσα (thalassa), "sea". It is thought that the proper name ti'amat, which is the construct or vocative form, was dropped in secondary translations of the original texts because some Akkadian copyists of Enûma Elish substituted the ordinary word tāmtu "sea" for Tiamat, the two names having become essentially the same due to association. [8] Tiamat also has been claimed to be cognate with Northwest Semitic tehom (תהום) (the deeps, abyss), in the Book of Genesis 1:2. [10]

Thorkild Peter Rudolph Jacobsen was a renowned historian specializing in Assyriology and Sumerian literature. He was one of the foremost scholars on the ancient Near East.

Walter Burkert was a German scholar of Greek mythology and cult.

Tethys (mythology) Ancient Greek mythological figure

In Greek mythology, Tethys, was a Titan daughter of Uranus and Gaia, sister and wife of Titan Oceanus, mother of the Potamoi and the Oceanids. Tethys had no active role in Greek mythology and no established cults.

The Babylonian epic Enuma Elish is named for its incipit: "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". It is thought that female deities are older than male ones in Mesopotamia and Tiamat may have begun as part of the cult of Nammu, a female principle of a watery creative force, with equally strong connections to the underworld, which predates the appearance of Ea-Enki. [11]

Incipit first few words of the opening line of a poem, song, or book, often used in lieu of a title

The incipit of a text is the first few words of the text, employed as an identifying label. In a musical composition, an incipit is an initial sequence of notes, having the same purpose. The word incipit comes from Latin and means "it begins". Its counterpart taken from the ending of the text is the explicit.

Mesopotamia Historical region within the Tigris–Euphrates river system

Mesopotamia is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the Fertile Crescent, in modern days roughly corresponding to most of Iraq, Kuwait, the eastern parts of Syria, Southeastern Turkey, and regions along the Turkish–Syrian and Iran–Iraq borders.

Nammu

In Sumerian mythology, Nammu was a primeval goddess, corresponding to Tiamat in Babylonian mythology.

Harriet Crawford finds this "mixing of the waters" to be 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. [12] This characteristic is especially true of the region of Bahrain, whose name in Arabic means "two seas", and which is thought to be the site of Dilmun, the original site of the Sumerian creation beliefs. [13] The difference in density of salt and fresh water drives a perceptible separation.

Bahrain Sovereign island state in the Persian Gulf

Bahrain, officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, is an island country in the Persian Gulf. The sovereign state comprises a small archipelago centered around Bahrain Island, situated between the Qatar peninsula and the north eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, to which it is connected by the 25-kilometre (16 mi) King Fahd Causeway. Bahrain's population is 1,234,571, including 666,172 non-nationals. It is 765.3 square kilometres (295.5 sq mi) in size, making it the third-smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore.

Dilmun Dilmun kanalı

Dilmun, or Telmun, was an ancient Semitic-speaking polity in Arabia mentioned from the 3rd millennium BC onwards. Based on textual evidence, it was located in the Persian Gulf, on a trade route between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley Civilisation, close to the sea and to artesian springs. A number of scholars have suggested that Dilmun originally designated the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, notably linked with the major Dilmunite settlements of Umm an-Nussi and Umm ar-Ramadh in the interior and Tarout on the coast. Dilmun encompassed Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the eastern portion regions of Saudi Arabia. This area is certainly what is meant by references to "Dilmun" among the lands conquered by King Sargon of Akkad and his descendants.

Appearance

In 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 (possibly "entrails"), a heart, arteries, and blood.

Tail rear appendage of organism

The tail is the section at the rear end of certain kinds of animals’ bodies; in general, the term refers to a distinct, flexible appendage to the torso. It is the part of the body that corresponds roughly to the sacrum and coccyx in mammals, reptiles, and birds. While tails are primarily a feature of vertebrates, some invertebrates including scorpions and springtails, as well as snails and slugs, have tail-like appendages that are sometimes referred to as tails. Tailed objects are sometimes referred to as "caudate" and the part of the body associated with or proximal to the tail are given the adjective "caudal".

Thigh area between the pelvis and the knee; upper leg

In human anatomy, the thigh is the area between the hip (pelvis) and the knee. Anatomically, it is part of the lower limb.

Udder mammary glands of female quadruped mammals

An udder is an organ formed of the mammary glands of dairy breeds of cattle and female four-legged mammals, particularly ruminants such as goats, sheep and deer. It is equivalent to the breast in primates. The udder is a single mass hanging beneath the animal, consisting of pairs of mammary glands with protruding teats. In cattle there are normally two pairs, in sheep, goats and deer there is one pair, and in some animals such as pigs there are many pairs. In animals with udders, the mammary glands develop on the milk line near the groin, and mammary glands that develop on the chest are generally referred to as breasts.

Tiamat is usually described as a sea serpent or dragon, although Assyriologist Alexander Heidel disagreed with this identification and argued that "dragon form can not be imputed to Tiamat with certainty." Other scholars have disregarded Heidel's argument: Joseph Fontenrose in particular found it "not convincing" and concluded that "there is reason to believe that Tiamat was sometimes, not necessarily always, conceived as a dragoness." [14] The Enûma Elish states that Tiamat gave birth to dragons and serpents among a more general list of monsters including scorpion men and merpeople, but does not identify her form as that of a dragon; however, other sources containing the same myth do refer to her as such. [15]

The depiction of Tiamat as a multi-headed dragon was popularized in the 1970s as a fixture of the Dungeons & Dragons roleplaying game inspired by earlier sources associating Tiamat with later mythological characters such as Lotan. [16]

Mythology

Abzu (or Apsû) fathered upon Tiamat the elder deities Lahmu and Lahamu (masc. the "hairy"), a title given to the gatekeepers at Enki's Abzu/E'engurra-temple in Eridu. Lahmu and Lahamu, in turn, were the parents of the 'ends' of the heavens (Anshar, from an-šar = heaven-totality/end) and the earth (Kishar); Anshar and Kishar were considered to meet at the horizon, becoming, thereby, the parents of Anu (Heaven) and Ki (Earth).

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 recorded on cuneiform tablets, the deity Enki (later Ea) believed correctly that Apsu was planning to murder the younger deities, upset with the noisy tumult they created, and so captured him and held him prisoner beneath his temple the E-Abzu. This angered Kingu, their son, who reported the event to Tiamat, whereupon she fashioned eleven monsters to battle the deities in order to avenge Apsu's death. These were her own offspring: Bašmu (“Venomous Snake”), Ušumgallu (“Great Dragon”), Mušmaḫḫū (“Exalted Serpent”), Mušḫuššu (“Furious Snake”), Laḫmu (the “Hairy One”), Ugallu (the “Big Weather-Beast”), Uridimmu (“Mad Lion”), Girtablullû (“Scorpion-Man"), Umū dabrūtu (“Violent Storms"), Kulullû (“Fish-Man") and Kusarikku (“Bull-Man”).

Tiamat possessed the Tablet of Destinies and in the primordial battle she gave them to Kingu, the deity she had chosen as her lover and the leader of her host, and who was also one of her children. The deities 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, her tail became the Milky Way. With the approval of the elder deities, he took from Kingu the Tablet of Destinies, installing himself as the head of the Babylonian pantheon. Kingu was captured and later was slain: his red blood mixed with the red clay of the Earth would make the body of humankind, created to act as the servant of the younger Igigi deities.

The principal theme of the epic is the justified elevation of Marduk to command over all the deities. "It has long been realized that the Marduk epic, for all its local coloring and probable elaboration by the Babylonian theologians, reflects in substance older Sumerian material," American Assyriologist E. A. Speiser remarked in 1942 [17] adding "The exact Sumerian prototype, however, has not turned up so far." This surmise that the Babylonian version of the story is based upon a modified version of an older epic, in which Enlil, not Marduk, was the god who slew Tiamat, [18] is more recently dismissed as "distinctly improbable". [19] In fact, Marduk has no precise Sumerian prototype. It is generally accepted amongst modern Assyriologists that the Enûma Elish—the Babylonian creation epic to which this mythological strand is attributed—was written as political and religious propaganda rather than reflecting a Sumerian tradition; the dating of the epic is not completely clear, but judging from the mythological topics covered and the cuneiform versions discovered thus far, it is likely to date to the 15th century BCE.[ citation needed ]

Interpretations

The Tiamat myth is one of the earliest recorded versions of the Chaoskampf, the battle between a culture hero and a chthonic or aquatic monster, serpent or dragon. [20] Chaoskampf motifs in other mythologies linked directly or indirectly to the Tiamat myth include the Hittite Illuyanka myth, and in Greek tradition Apollo's killing of the Python as a necessary action to take over the Delphic Oracle. [21]

According to some analyses there are two parts to the Tiamat myth, the first in which Tiamat is creator goddess, through a " sacred marriage " between salt and fresh water, peacefully creating the cosmos through successive generations. In the second " Chaoskampf " Tiamat is considered the monstrous embodiment of primordial chaos. [6]

Robert Graves [22] considered Tiamat's death by Marduk as evidence for his hypothesis of an ancient shift in power from a matriarchal society to a patriarchy. Grave's ideas were later developed into the Great Goddess theory by Marija Gimbutas, Merlin Stone and others. The theory suggests Tiamat and other ancient monster figures were presented as former supreme deities of peaceful, woman-centered religions that were turned into monsters when violent. Their defeat at the hands of a male hero corresponded to the manner in which male-dominated religions overthrew ancient society. This theory is rejected by academia and modern authors such as Lotte Motz, Cynthia Eller and others. [23] [24]

In creative works

The five headed draconic goddess in the Dungeons & Dragons story arc is named Tiamat.

Notes

  1. Bromily, Geoffrey W. (1988). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 93. ISBN   0-8028-3784-0 . Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  2. Willis, Roy (2012). World Mythology. New York: Metro Books. p. 62. ISBN   978-1-4351-4173-5.
  3. Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses – Tiamat (goddess)
  4. Luzacs Semitic Text and Translation Series (PDF) (Vol XII ed.). p. 150-line 122.
  5. Luzacs Semitic Text and Translation Series (PDF) (Vol XII ed.). p. 124-line 36.
  6. 1 2 Dalley, Stephanie (1987). Myths from Mesopotamia. Oxford University Press. p. 329.
  7. Such as Jacobsen, Thorkild (1968). "The Battle between Marduk and Tiamat". Journal of the American Oriental Society. 88 (1): 104–108. doi:10.2307/597902. JSTOR   597902.
  8. 1 2 Jacobsen 1968:105.
  9. Burkert, Walter (1992). The Orientalizing Revolution: Near Eastern Influences on Greek Culture in the Early Archaic Age. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. pp. 92f. ISBN   0-674-64363-1.
  10. Yahuda, A. (1933). The Language of the Pentateuch in its Relation to Egyptian. Oxford.
  11. Steinkeller, Piotr (1999). "On Rulers, Priests and Sacred Marriage: tracing the evolution of early Sumerian kingship". In Wanatabe, K. (ed.). Priests and Officials in the Ancient Near East. Heidelberg: Winter. pp. 103–38. ISBN   3-8253-0533-3.
  12. Crawford, Harriet E. W. (1998). Dilmun and its Gulf Neighbours. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   0-521-58348-9.
  13. Crawford, Harriet; Killick, Robert; Moon, Jane, eds. (1997). The Dilmun Temple at Saar: Bahrain and Its Archaeological Inheritance. Saar Excavation Reports / London-Bahrain Archaeological Expedition: Kegan Paul. ISBN   0-7103-0487-0.
  14. Fontenrose, Joseph (1980). Python: a study of Delphic myth and its origins. University of California Press. pp. 153–154. ISBN   0-520-04091-0.
  15. King, Leonard William (1902). The Seven Tablets of Creation (Vol. II: Supplementary Texts). p. 117.
  16. Four ways of Creation: "Tiamat & Lotan Archived 2015-02-06 at the Wayback Machine ." Retrieved on August 23, 2010
  17. Speiser, "An Intrusive Hurro-Hittite Myth", Journal of the American Oriental Society62.2 (June 1942:98–102) p. 100.
  18. Expressed, for example, in E. O. James, The Worship of the Skygod: A Comparative Study in Semitic and Indo-European Religion (London: University of London, Jordan Lectures in Comparative religion) 1963:24, 27f.
  19. As by W. G. Lambert, reviewing James 1963 in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 27.1 (1964), pp. 157–158.
  20. e.g. Thorkild Jacobsen in "The Battle between Marduk and Tiamat", Journal of the American Oriental Society,88.1 (January–March 1968), pp 104–108.
  21. MArtkheel
  22. Graves, The Greek Myths, rev. ed. 1960:§4.5.
  23. The Faces of the Goddess, Lotte Motz, Oxford University Press (1997), ISBN   978-0-19-508967-7
  24. The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory: Why An Invented Past Will Not Give Women a Future, Cynthia Eller, Beacon Press (2000), ISBN   978-0-8070-6792-5.

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