Enuma Elish

(ca. 1500 BCE)


Unlike many modern religions, including Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, the Mesopotamian religion was not the creation of a single virtuoso at a specific moment in time. Rather, it was a traditional part of the culture of its peoples going back to prehistory. It was not a creed of belief; it was simply part of the description of the world, inextricably bound up with the people’s understanding of history, science, government, and every other part of life. As a hymn in a traditional religion, Enuma Elish is not a fixed source of religious orthodoxy but an evolving expression of belief. In Babylon, the hymn was sung to Marduk; later, it was sung in Assyria to Assur. As the Assyrians and Babylonians vied for what seemed to them dominance of the world empire, their national gods assumed a central role as the head of the pantheon. The gods were imagined as human beings who were larger than life. The ideal image of the Mesopotamian family was a large...

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The ruins of Babylon (Library of Congress)

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