The Babylonian Legends of the Creation by British Museum


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Page 1

[Footnote 1: See the _Transactions_, Vol. IV, Plates I-VI, London,


The publication of the above-mentioned texts and translations proved
beyond all doubt the correctness of Rawlinson's assertion made in
1865, that "certain portions of the Babylonian and Assyrian Legends of
the Creation resembled passages in the early chapters of the Book of
Genesis." During the next twenty years, the Creation texts were
copied and recopied by many Assyriologists, but no publication
appeared in which all the material available for reconstructing the
Legend was given in a collected form. In 1898, the Trustees of the
British Museum ordered the publication of all the Creation texts
contained in the Babylonian and Assyrian Collections, and the late
Mr. L. W. King, Assistant in the Department of Egyptian and Assyrian
Antiquities, was directed to prepare an edition. The exhaustive
preparatory search which he made through the collections of tablets in
the British Museum resulted in the discovery of many unpublished
fragments of the Creation Legends, and in the identification of a
fragment which, although used by George Smith, had been lost sight of
for about twenty-five years. He ascertained also that, according to
the Ninevite scribes, the Tablets of the Creation Series were seven in
number, and what several versions of the Legend of the Creation, the
works of Babylonian and Assyrian editors of different periods, must
have existed in early Mesopotamian Libraries. King's edition of the
Creation Texts appeared in "Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in
the British Museum," Part XIII, London, 1901. As the scope of this
work did not permit the inclusion of his translations, and commentary
and notes, he published these in a private work entitled, "The Seven
Tablets of Creation, or the Babylonian and Assyrian Legends concerning
the creation of the world and of mankind," London, 1902, 8vo. A
supplementary volume contained much new material which had been found
by him since the appearance of the official edition of the texts, and
in fact doubled the number of Creation Texts known hitherto.

[Illustration: Babylonian map of the world, showing the ocean
surrounding the world and making the position of Babylon on the
Euphrates as its centre. It shows also the mountains as the source of

mouth of the Euphrates. [No. 92,687.]]


A perusal of the texts of the Seven Tablets of Creation, which King
was enabled, through the information contained in them, to arrange for
the first time in their proper sequence, shows that the main object of
the Legend was the glorification of the god Marduk, the son of Ea

of the story of the creation of the heavens, and earth and man. The
Creation properly speaking, is only mentioned as an exploit of Marduk
in the Sixth Tablet, and the Seventh Tablet is devoted wholly to the
enumeration of the honorific titles of Marduk. It is probable that
every great city in Babylonia, whilst accepting the general form of
the Creation Legend, made the greatest of its local gods the hero of
it. It has long been surmised that the prominence of Marduk in the
Legend was due to the political importance of the city of Babylon. And
we now know from the fragments of tablets which have been excavated in

or Shar'at), that in the city of Ashur, the god Ashur, the national
god of Assyria, actually occupied in texts[1] of the Legend in use
there the position which Marduk held in four of the Legends current in
Babylonia. There is reason for thinking that the original hero of the
Legend was Enlil (Bel), the great god of Nippur (the Nafar, or Nufar
of the Arab writers), and that when Babylon rose into power under the
First Dynasty (about B.C. 2300), his position in the Legend was
usurped at Babylon by Marduk.

[Footnote 1: See the duplicate fragments described in the Index to
Ebeling, _Keilschrifttexte aus Assur_, Leipzig, 1919 fol.]

[Illustration: Excavations in Babylonia and Assyria.]


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