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Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria

Page: 30

In connexion with this campaign, Tiawath made the most elaborate preparations along with her companions. She laboured without ceasing. From the waters of the great abyss over which she presided she called forth the most fearful monsters, who remind us strongly of those against which Horus, the Egyptian god of light, had to strive in his wars with Set. From the deep came gigantic serpents armed with stings, dripping with the most deadly poison; dragons of vast shape reared their heads above the flood, their huge jaws armed with row upon row of formidable teeth; giant dogs of indescribable savagery; men fashioned partly like scorpions; fish-men, and countless other horrible beings, were created and formed into battalions under the command of a god named Kingu, to whom Tiawath referred as her 'only husband' and to whom she promised the rule of heaven and of fate when once the detested gods of light are removed by his mighty arm.

The introduction of this being as the husband of Tiawath seems to point either to a fusion of legends or to the interpolation of some passage popular in Babylonian lore. At this juncture Apsu disappears, as does Mummu. Can it be that at this point a scribe or mythographer took up the tale who did not agree with his predecessor in describing Tiawath,[Pg 76] Apsu, and Mummu, originally one, as three separate deities? This would explain the divergence, but the point is an obscure one, and hasty conclusions on slight evidence are usually doomed to failure. To resume our narrative, Tiawath, whoever her coadjutors, was resolved to retain in her own hands the source of all living things, that great deep over which she presided.

But the gods of heaven were by no means lulled into peaceful security, for they were aware of the ill-will which Tiawath bore them. They learned of her plot, and great was their wrath. Ea, the god of water, was the first to hear of it, and related it to Ansar, his father, who filled heaven with his cries of anger. Ansar betook himself to his other son, Anu, god of the sky. "Speak to the great dragon," he urged him; "speak to her, my son, and her anger will be assuaged and her wrath vanish." Duly obedient, Anu betook himself to the realm of Tiawath to reason with her, but the monster snarled at him so fiercely that in dread he turned his back upon her and departed. Next came Nudimmud to her, but with no better success. At length the gods decided that one of their number, called Merodach, should undertake the task of combating Tiawath the terrible. Merodach asked that it might be written that he should be victorious, and this was granted him. He was then given rule over the entire universe, and to test whether or not the greatest power had passed to him a garment was placed in the midst of the gods and Merodach spoke words commanding that it should disappear. Straightway it vanished and was not. Once more spake the god, and the garment re-appeared before the eyes of the dwellers in heaven. The portion of the epic which describes[Pg 77] the newly acquired glories of Merodach is exceedingly eloquent. We are told that none among the gods can now surpass him in power, that the place of their gathering has become his home, that they have given him the supreme sovereignty, and they even beg that to them who put their trust in him he will be gracious. They pray[4] that he may pour out the soul of the keeper of evil, and finally they place in his hands a marvellous weapon with which to cut off the life of Tiawath. "Let the winds carry her blood to secret places," they exclaimed in their desire that the waters of this fountain of wickedness should be scattered far and wide. Mighty was he to look upon when he set forth for the combat. His great bow he bore upon his back; he swung his massive club triumphantly. He set the lightning before him; he filled his body with swiftness; and he framed a great net to enclose the dragon of the sea. Then with a word he created terrible winds and tempests, whirlwinds, storms, seven in all, for the confounding of Tiawath. The hurricane was his weapon, and he rode in the chariot of destiny. His helm blazed with terror and awful was his aspect. The steeds which were yoked to his chariot rushed rapidly towards the abyss, their mouths frothing with venomous foam. Followed by all the good wishes of the gods, Merodach fared forth that day.



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