A Sumerian gentleman

King Ur-Nammu

Tablet I

When on high the heaven had not been named,
Firm ground below had not been called by name,
Naught but primordial Apsu, their begetter,
And Mummu-Tiamat, she who bore them all,
Their waters commingling as a single body;
No reed hut had been matted, no marsh land had appeared,
When no gods whatever had been brought into being,
Uncalled by name, their destinies undetermined–
Then it was that the gods were formed within them.
Lahmu and Lahamu were brought forth, by name they were called. (10)
Before they had grown in age and stature,
Anshar and Kishar were formed, surpassing the others.
They prolonged the days, added on the years.
Anu was their heir, of his fathers the rival;
Yes, Anshar’s first-born, Anu, was his equal.
Anu begot in his image Nudimmud.
This Nudimmud was of his fathers the master;
Of broad wisdom, understanding, mighty in strength,
Mightier by far than his grandfather, Anshar.
He had no rival among the gods, his brothers. (20)

The divine brothers banded together,
They disturbed Tiamat as they surged back and forth,
Yes, they troubled the mood of Tiamat
By their hilarity in the Abode of Heaven.
Apsu could not lessen their clamor
And Tiamat was speechless at their ways.
Their doings were loathsome unto . . . .
Unsavory were their ways; they were overbearing.
Then Apsu, the begetter of the great gods,
Cried out, addressing Mummu, his vizier: (30)

“O Mummu, my vizier, who rejoices my spirit,
Come here and let us go to Tiamat!”

They went and sat down before Tiamat,
Exchanging counsel about the gods, their first-born.
Apsu, opening his mouth,
Said to resplendent Tiamat:

“Their ways are truly loathsome to me.
By day I find no relief, nor repose by night.
I will destroy, I will wreck their ways,
That quiet may be restored. Let us have rest!” (40)

As soon as Tiamat heard this,
She was wroth and called out to her husband.
She cried out aggrieved, as she raged all alone,
Injecting woe into her mood:

“What? Should we destroy that which we have built?
Their ways indeed are most troublesome, but let us attend kindly!”

Then Mummu answered, giving counsel to Apsu;
Ill-wishing and ungracious was Mummu’s advice:

“Do destroy, my father, the mutinous ways.
Then you will have relief by day and rest by night!” (50)

When Apsu heard this, his face grew radiant
Because of the evil he planned against the gods, his sons.
As for Mummu, he embraced him by the neck
As that one sat down on his knees to kiss him.

Now whatever they had plotted between them,
Was repeated unto the gods, their first-born.
When the gods heard this, they were astir,
Then lapsed into silence and remained speechless.
Surpassing in wisdom, accomplished, resourceful,
Ea, the all-wise, saw through their scheme. (60)

A master design against it he devised and set up,
Made artful his spell against it, surpassing and holy.
He recited it and made it subsist in the deep,
As he poured sleep upon him. Sound asleep he lay.
When he had made Apsu prone, drenched with sleep,
Mummu, the adviser, was powerless to stir.
He loosened his band, tore off his tiara,
Removed his halo and put it on himself.
Having fettered Apsu, he slew him.
Mummu he bound and left behind lock. (70)

Having thus established his dwelling upon Apsu,
He laid hold of Mummu, holding him by the nose-rope.
After Ea had vanquished and trodden down his foes,
Had secured his triumph over his enemies,
In his sacred chamber in profound peace had rested,
He named it “Apsu,” for shrines he assigned it.
In that same place his cult hut he founded.
Ea and Damkina, his wife, dwelled there in splendor.

The Birth of Marduk

ln the chamber of fates, the abode of destinies,
A god was engendered, most able and wisest of gods. (80)
In the heart of Apsu was Marduk created,
In the heart of holy Apsu was Marduk created.
He who begot him was Ea, his father;
She who bore him was Damkina, his mother.
The breast of goddesses he did suck.
The nurse that nursed him filled him with awesomeness.
Alluring was his figure, sparkling the lift of his eyes.
Lordly was his gait, commanding from of old.
When Ea saw him, the father who begot him,
He exulted and glowed, his heart filled with gladness. (90)
He rendered him perfect and endowed him with a double godhead.
Greatly exalted was he above them, exceeding throughout.
Perfect were his members beyond comprehension,
Unsuited for understanding, difficult to perceive.
Four were his eyes, four were his ears;
When he moved his lips, fire blazed forth.
Large were all four hearing organs,
And the eyes, in like number, scanned all things.
He was the loftiest of the gods, surpassing was his stature;
His members were enormous, he was exceeding tall. (100)
“My little son, my little son!”
My son, the Sun! Sun of the heavens!”
Clothed with the halo of ten gods, he was strong to the utmost,
As their awesome flashes were heaped upon him.
Anu brought forth and begot the fourfold wind
Consigning to its power the leader of tlte host.
He fashioned . . . , stationed the whirlwind,
He produced streams to disturb Tiamat.
The gods, given no rest, suffer in the storm.
Their hearts having plotted evil,
To Tiamat, their mother, said:

“When they slew Apsu, your consort,
You did not aid him but remained still.
When he created the dread fourfold wind,
Your vitals were diluted and so we can have no rest.
Let Apsu, your consort, be in your mind
And Mummu, who has been vanquished! You are left alone!
. . . you pace about distraught,
. . . without cease. You do not love us!
. . . our eyes are pinched, (120)
. . . without cease. Let us have rest!
. . . to battle. Avenge them!
. . . and render them as the wind!”

When Tiamat heard these words, she was pleased:

” . . . you have given. Let us make monsters,
. . . and the gods in the midst . . . .
. . . let us do battle and against the gods . . . !”

They thronged and marched at the side of Tiamat.
Enraged, they plot without cease night and day,
They are set for combat, growling, raging, (130)
They form a council to prepare for the fight.
Mother Hubur, she who fashions all things,
Added matchless weapons, bore monster-serpents,
Sharp of tooth, unsparing of fang.
With venom for blood she has filled their bodies.
Roaring dragons she has clothed with terror,
Has crowned them with haloes, making them like gods,
So that he who beholds them shall perish abjectly,
And that, with their bodies reared up, none might turn them back.
She set up the Viper, the Dragon, and the Sphinx, (140)
The Great-Lion, the Mad-Dog, and the Scorpion-Man,
Mighty lion-demons, the Dragon-Fly, the Centaur–
Bearing weapons that spare not, fearless in battle.
Firm were her decrees, past withstanding were they.
Withal eleven of this kind she brought forth.
From among the gods, her first-born, who formed her Assembly,
She elevated Kingu, made him chief among them.
The leading of the ranks, command of the Assembly,
The raising of weapons for the encounter, advancing to combat,
In battle the command-in-chief– (150)
These she entrusted to his hand as she seated him in the Council:

“I have cast for you the spell, exalting you in the Assembly of the gods.
To counsel all the gods I have given you full power.
Truly, you are supreme, you are my only consort!
Your utterance shall prevail over all the Anunnaki!”

She gave him the Tablet of Destinies, fastened on his breast:

“As for you, your command shall be unchangeable, your word shall endure!”

As soon as Kingu was elevated, possessed of the rank of Anu,
they decreed the fate for the gods, his sons:

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“Your word shall make the first subside, (160)
Shall humble the `Power-Weapon,’ so potent in its sweep!”

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