Honors English 21
The Origins of the World in Babylonian and Greek Culture
People have always wondered about the origins of the world and how something was created from nothing. It was a wonder to be thought and a tale to be told. Thus, almost every culture has its own creation story of how the world came to be. There are many factors that play a role in these creation stories, such as the role of religion and god(s). Hence, a lot of the creation stories involve the origin of the universe through a series of generations of gods and goddesses overthrowing one another, which eventually leads to the creation of mankind. Many creation stories have been passed on orally generation after generation until the use of writing was established, which then allowed the stories to be locked into script. Therefore, many creation stories have similar connections to each other as they have spread through word from different cultures. For instance, two particular creation stories, the Enuma Elish and Hesiod’s Theogony, have had many important connections even though they are from two very different cultures. In the Babylonian creation epic of the Enuma Elish, the younger generation subdues the older one. The god of wisdom, Ea, overthrows Apsu, begetter of the gods. This causes Tiamat, Apsu’s consort, and her children to attack the ruling gods, hoping to overthrow them and return the universe back to chaos. However, Tiamat and her forces are defeated by the hero Marduk, who returns order and creates mankind from this battle (9). In the ancient Greek story of the Theogony, Hesiod was given the task of spreading the word of the gods from the Muses, who told him how Olympus came to be. So, he tells of how Kronos, son of Ouranos (the god of Heaven) and Gaia (the goddess of Earth), overthrew Ouranos which gave rise to the Titans. These Titans clashed with the army of Zeus only to be defeated and locked up in Tartarus, the underworld; from this battle Olympus was created (15). Thus, in looking at the creation stories of these ancient cultures explaining the origins of the world, many connections have been found between specific passages in the two stories. One conspicuous similarity that can be found between the passages in the Enuma Elish, lines 30-120, and the Theogony, lines 165-220, is the narrative voice. Although the narrators of the passages are different, both narrators are in third person omniscient which means they are all knowing narrators that can tell everything that is going on. And so, the narrator knows the thoughts and feelings of all the characters in the story, allowing us to foreshadow events that will occur. For instance, in lines 50-62 from the Enuma Elish, we can see how the narrator tells us the thoughts of both sides of the gods and what they know and don’t know. While Apsu was tired of the mischief of the younger gods, he decides to draw a plot to kill them. However, as he was planning to kill them with his Vizier, his plan was relayed to the younger gods, his sons, who became aware of it. From this, Ea designed his own plot to overthrow Apsu and prevent him from killing the younger generation of the gods (10). Thus, the narrator allowed us to know what Apsu was planning, and in addition, the narrator told us what Apsu didn’t know, which was that his plan was discovered by his son. Therefore, by knowing the thoughts of both sides of the gods, we can predict that the younger generation will overthrow Apsu since they have an advantage over him. Likewise, in lines 165-179 in the Theogony, we can observe how the third person omniscient narration is similar to that of the passage in the Enuma Elish. For instance, as a result of the hatred of his awful sons, Ouranos hid them in a secret hiding-place in Earth. However, because the inside of Earth was being strained and stretched, she made a clever plan to kill her consort. She devised this plan with her sons, and Kronos boldly...
Cited: “Enuma Elish.” Honors Literature Anthology. NY: LIU, 2013. 9-11
Hesiod. “Theogony.” Honors Literature Anthology. NY: LIU, 2013. 15-17
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