Marduk’s conflict with Tiamat

Marduk’s conflict with Tiamat is one of the most central and defining myths in ancient Mesopotamian religion. It is narrated in the Babylonian epic “Enuma Elish,” also known as the “Babylonian Creation Myth.”

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Before Marduk and Tiamat’s epic battle, the gods lived in a primordial, chaotic state. The waters of the universe were embodied by two beings: Apsu, the sweet waters, and Tiamat, the salt waters. They mingled together, producing younger gods.

Marduk god

Marduk – 9th century BC depiction of the Statue of Marduk, with his servant dragon Mušḫuššu. This was Marduk’s main cult image in Babylon

Cause of the Conflict

As time progressed, the younger gods became noisy and disruptive, which disturbed Apsu and Tiamat. Apsu wanted to destroy them, but Tiamat disagreed. However, when the younger gods learned of Apsu’s intentions, they acted first. One of the younger gods, Ea (or Enki), killed Apsu.

Tiamat, grieving and enraged by the death of Apsu and the actions of the younger gods, decided to wage war against them. She created an army of monsters and chose her new consort, Kingu, as their commander.

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Marduk’s Rise and the New Deities

The younger gods needed a champion to defend them against Tiamat. Enter Marduk, a powerful god from the new generation. Marduk agreed to help, but on one condition: if he emerged victorious against Tiamat, he would be proclaimed the leader of all gods.

The gods agreed to Marduk’s terms. Armed with powerful winds and a net, as well as a bow and arrows, Marduk confronted Tiamat.

The Battle between Marduk and Tiamat

Image: Drawing by L. Gruner – ‘Monuments of Nineveh, Second Series’ plate 5, London, J. Murray, 1853

In their dramatic encounter, Marduk captured Tiamat in his net. Then, using the winds, he forced her mouth open and shot an arrow into her belly, killing her. With Tiamat defeated, Marduk divided her corpse, using half to create the sky and the other half to create the earth.


Having defeated Tiamat and her monstrous army, Marduk carried out his promise to establish order in the universe. He created the world as known to the ancient Mesopotamians, using the bodies of defeated gods. As a symbol of his victory and the new cosmic order, Marduk established the city of Babylon as his dwelling place on earth.

Marduk’s triumph over Tiamat is not just a story of good overcoming evil. It represents the victory of order over chaos, culture over nature, and the establishment of a cosmic order under the rule of a single, supreme god.

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Importance of the myth

This myth had profound cultural and religious implications for the ancient Babylonians, reinforcing the primacy of the god Marduk and the city of Babylon in the Mesopotamian world.

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