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Famous Babylonian Dragons

history | > famous dragons

> Babylonian | Canaanite/Hebrew | Egyptian | Iranian

- Apsu was the universal primeval father, the serpent god of fresh water. He spread happiness and abundance over Earth and was the source of wisdom and knowledge. The union of Apsu and Tiamat gave rise to all the great gods and goddesses of Babylon, and both represent the idea of chaos that precedes form and order, which is the foundation on which civilization rests. In time Apsu became troubled with the clamour of the young gods. He plotted with Tiamat to destroy them. Tiamat was at first unwilling to take part in the battle, but the god Ea struck first and destroyed him, driving Tiamat to seek revenge.

Tiamat and Marduk battle

[full size] Battle between Tiamat [left] and Marduk
Tiamat is portrayed as a griffinlike beast
instead of an elongated sea dragon. This is possibly a copy of
the original relief at Nimrud.

- Tiamat was the dragon goddess of salt waters. She was a turbulent, salf-water ocean that existed at the beginning of time with Apsu. She is said to have been a fierce dragoness in form. The embodiment of the raw energy of the ocean, she was also the personification of the untamed forces of the universe before order was established. Her battle with Marduk [son of the water god Ea] is part of the Babylonian mythology of creation. Marduk caught Tiamat in a net after he threw a raging storm into her mouth. She failed to swallow him and he tore her entrails apart after piercing her with an arrow. He slaughtered Tiamat's army of monsters, then split her skull and slashed her body in two. One half of her body became the vault of the heavens and the other, the ocean floor. Her eyes became the sources of the rivers Tigris and Euphrates, which the lives of the Mesopotamians depended on. Her tail was bent up into the sky to form the Milky Way. Marduk went on to kill her son, Kingu, and mixed his blood with earth to create humankind.

Marduk glazed black brick relief

- This glazed black brick relief shows a striding dragon, sacred to the god Marduk [a.k.a the sirrush]. It is a portion of the decoration from one of the city gates of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar, whose name appears as the ruler of Jerusalem in the Bible [Kings II 24:10-16, 25:8-15], ornamented the monumental entrance gate dedicated to Ishtar, the goddess of love and fertility.

Marduk was originally regarded as a fertility or agricultural deity, but gained a reputation as a fearless warrior and this grew to such an extent that he was called upon to attack the terrifying Tiamat. He was awarded 50 titles after killing her, and in this way he absorbed all the other gods and came to symbolise total divinity, becoming the chief god of Babylon.

- [Sumerian] Zu [also known as Asag/Anzu] was an evil lesser-god in Babylonian mythology, who is also known as a demonic tempest bird and a storm-bird. He stole the Tablets of Destiny/Law from the great god Enlil, Lord of the Wind. He flew away to his mountain with these tablets that regulated the order in the universe. The god Marduk succeeded in overcoming Zu and thus retrieved the tablets. Some versions tell of Zu being overcome by Ninurta, Enlil's son and the god of war. The world was hence prevented from returning to its prior state of primordial chaos.

next [Canaanite/Hebrew]


Books -
1. Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology
by Arthur Cotterell & Rachel Storm
2. Dragons: A Natural History by Dr. Karl Shuker

Websites -
> Creation Stories
> Tiamat article, Encyclopedia Mythica