The Enuma Elish Background

The Enuma Elish Background

The Enuma Elish is the name given the collected myths passed down through the oral tradition that describe the creation myth of the ancient Babylonian civilization. The title that has been given to ancient manuscripts is a reference—what is termed the incipit—to the opening phrase that introduces the composition: “When on high” which is derived from the full phrase “When on high the heavens had not been named, Down below solid ground had not been called by name.”

Recorded on clay tablets in what is modern-day Iraq, the Enuma Elish details the birth and godly powers of Marduk who creates human being from his own bones and blood. Once created, Marduk endows humans with the superiority to rule over every other living being on earth.

The overriding intent of the Enuma Elish was to serve a similar purpose for Babylon within the context of the larger expanse of Mesopotamian religious beliefs. The Enuma Elish is essentially one of the earliest examples of political propaganda. The primary purpose of its writing was to exalt Marduk as not just a god, but the creation myth of the state of Babylon. Thus, Marduk becomes situated in a position of primacy over all other existing deities in the myths of other societies which comprised Mesopotamia in the second millennium BCE.

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