Alternative names: See The Many Names and Meanings
Type/Species: Sea Serpent, Draconic Hybrid
Slayer: Nintura, Assur, Marduk  or Bel Merodach  or Belus 
Origin: Ancient Mesopotamian Mythology, Akkadian Mythology, Assyrian Mythology, Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) Mythology, Old Babylonian (Amorite) Mythology, Sumerian Mythology, Enuma Elish
The Many Names and Meanings
Mesopotamia was always home to many different peoples and many different languages, and from the time of ancient Sumer, there were inscriptions and other documentation of the mythologies and beliefs of the region.
The different cultural groups include the following: the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Amorites or Old Babylonians, the Assyrians, [65,66] and the Chaldeans or Neo-Babylonians.  The region was also home to other groups, such as the Elamites, the Hittites, the Kassites, the Hurrians, and many others. [66,68] Over time, these different groups interacted, sometimes subsuming or combining elements of each other's mythology.
As Tiamat had particularly ancient roots, the various manifestations of and references to her remain particularly complex and intricate.
| Sumerian 
Old Babylonian 
|Goddess of Dark Waters,  a beneficent deity |
|Bis-Bis|| Assyrian 
|Hubar||Old Babylonian ||Referred to in a passage as 'Mother Hubar' |
|Sumerian ||'sea-water' or 'sea chaos';  in Assyrian, Mummu indicates confusion |
|Nammu||Sumerian ||Represented with the ideogram for 'sea' |
| Omorca 
| Babylonian 
|Omoroka ||Chaldean* [60,53]|
|Tamtu|| Akkadian 
|'the sea,' related to Assyrian word tehuta, the sea-water |
|Tauthe||Old Babylonian ||Another form of Tiawath or Tiamat [27,44]|
|Tehom||Hebrew ||'the Deep' or 'the Abyss' |
|Greek [4,61]||the sea |
|Corruption of Tiamat  or Tiawath |
|Tiawath||Old Babylonian |
|Akkadian||Akkadian for 'sea' |
|Tiamtu||Babylonian||Synonym for Tiamat |
| Assyrian 
|Synonym for Tiamat |
|Old Babylonian||Likely related to her incarnation as Hubar; umma being close to the word 'mother' and khubar referring to a river|
Chaldean* sometimes also referred to as Neo-Babylonian.
Tiamat was the cosmic dragon, or world dragon, of ancient Mesopotamia.  She originally was the primal goddess of the saltwater seas  or the goddess of the primeval oceans,  but later she personified the salt water. [61,63] She was also called the Dragon of the Deep or the Spirit of Chaos. 
Tiamat existed before any of the other deities,  for she was the primordial chaos  that contained the abstract, formless elements of the universe.  In earlier manifestations, she was conceived as the universal mother  from whom all things came, but in later myths, such as the Babylonian creation epic Enuma elish, Tiamat was a dragon-like demon or monster  that challenged the new order of the world as it formed. 
In the times of ancient Mesopotamia, it was believed that all life came from water.  However, later Chaldean accounts explained that the deep waters that produced life contained all manner of hideous beings, including humans with four faces, dogs with the tails of fish, or bulls with a human's head. So while life did come from the water, the chaotic nature of the waters allowed for animals and humans to assume one another's shapes, causing great confusion and terror.  Thus Tiamat was the mother of all, a source of life but also a chaotic and unpredictable force.
Tiamat was the counterpart of Apsu,  the personification of the freshwaters,  also called the sweet waters.  Sometimes he was called the god of the fresh water or  referred to as her consort  rather than her spouse. 
Their union was described as follows:
When sweet and bitter mingled together,
No reed was plaited, no rushes muddied the water,
The gods were nameless, natureless, futureless,
...from Apsu and Tiamat,
in the waters gods were created,
in the waters silt precipitated.
In ancient Mesopotamia, the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers were of paramount importance. This primordial state, where the salt (or bitter) waters mixed with the fresh (or sweet) waters, represented the convergence of these two rivers. 
Together, Tiamat and Apsu produced the heavens and the earth,  or simply the world in its original state.  Once Tiamat and her counterpart mingled, the birth of the gods followed,  as the two spawned many offspring,  including Ea and the early deities. 
In some stories, the pair produced other beings together,  but in most recounting, Tiamat alone created many other beasts. She populated earth with hornets, scorpions, spiders, apes, vultures, and hyenas. 
- poisonous serpents  gigantic in size, with sharp teeth and stings 
- fire-breathing dragons,  terrible in stature and demeanor, and bestowed with brilliance 
- ravening wolves 
- raging dogs 
- fish-men [24,35]
- scorpion-men [24,35]
- men who had the claws and teeth of lions 
- eleven dragons and other fearsome monsters 
- many other terrible beings 
These monsters threated the world, but the younger, heroic deities destroyed them to protect the world.  These heroes included the Sumerian deity Ninurta and the later Babylonian deities of Assur and Marduk. 
After a tremendous war, the younger gods defeated both Apsu and Tiamat.  After her death, she was cut in two  like a dried fish  and dismembered.  Part of her became the sky  and the firmament to hold up the heavens,  as well as the Milky Way.  Another part of her became the earth [29,54] while her blood formed the sea. 
In some versions of the myth, Marduk went on to create many other things from Tiamat's corpse. He crafted rainclouds from her spittle, the mountains with freshwater cascades from her breasts, and the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers from her eyes.  His works were enumerated as follows:
Taking the spittle of Tiamat, ...
He formed the clouds and filled (them) with [water].
The raising of winds, the bringing of rain (and) cold,
Making the mist smoke, piling up her poison:
(These) he appointed to himself, took into his own charge.
Putting her head into position he formed the[reon the mountai]ns,
Opening the deep (which) was in flood,
He caused to flow from her eyes the Euphrates (and) Tigris,
Stopping her nostrils he left...
He formed at her udder the lofty mountains,
(Therein) he drilled springs for the wells to carry off (the water).
Twisting her tail he bound it to Durmah,
[...] ... Apsu at his foot,
[...] ... her crotch, she was fastened to the heavens,
(Thus) he covered [the heavens] (and) established the earth
[...] ... in the midst of Tiamat he made flow,
[...] his net he completely let out,
(So) he created heaven and earth...
[...] their bounds ... established.
He transformed her eleven great monsters into statues to decorate the temple over the primordial ocean. 
Tiamat can be seen, even today, in the Dragon constellation, for Marduk set the North Star to keep the heavens in place and also set a great Dragon in her likeness to guard it forever. 
He Who Conquers Tiamat
The ancient Sumerian hero Ninurta, the likely inspiration for the later deity Marduk, was known for his valiant conquering of the dragon Zu to regain the Tablets of Destinies. His battle mirrors that of Tiamat and the later supreme deities that conquered her.
In the Enuma Elish, Marduk and Assur take over the role of Ninurta, who saved the universe from the destructive claws of the dragon Tiamat.  In Assyrian Mythology, the hero's name was Assur; in Babylon, his name was Marduk.  Both were believed to protect the King's Sovereignty. 
He squared Apsu's quarter, the abode of Nudimmud,
As the lord measured the dimensions of Apsu.
The Great Abode, its likeness, he fixed as Esharra,
The Great Abode, Esharra, which he made as the firmament.
Anu, Enlil, and Ea he made occupy their places.
For his victory, he was also given the highest position of any of the gods. The fifty most important deities each gave him their powers by attributing one of their names to him. 
The Primeval Sea (Nammu or Tiamat)
The ancient Sumerians believed that everything began with the primeval sea, which was eternal and uncreated. [13,15] Later, she became known as Nammu or Tiamat.  Her epithets translated to "the mother who gave birth to heaven and earth," and "the mother, the ancestress, who gave birth to all the gods." 
In this manifestation, she gave birth to heaven and earth,  which were united until they were separated by air.  The myths explained that Nammu gave birth to An, the male god that represented heaven, and Ki, the female god that represented earth, [13,16] and the union of An and Ki led to the birth of Enlil. 
The trouble was that Nammu gave birth to two solid elements,  which formed the ceiling and the floor of the world, forcing all to live in complete darkness.  Enlil created Nanna, the moon, to brighten the darkness,  and then Enlil separated his mother and father [13,16] by way of air, which was known as an expanding element.  Once this happened, all manner of life became possible, including plants, animals, and humans. 
By this Sumerian account of creation, three gods were responsible for the creation of humanity: Enki, Nihmah, and Nammu.  Enki conceived of the idea and instructed Nammu on how to craft humans. 
Mix the heart of the clay that is over the abyss,
The good and princely fashioners will thicken the clay,
Thou, do thou bring the limbs into existence;
Ninmah (the earth-mother goddess) will work above thee,
. . . (goddesses of birth) will stand by thee at thy fashioning
-- Sumerian Tablet: The Creation of Man 
In this version of creation, there was no mention of Apsu or a consort for Tiamat or Nammu. She alone created everything.
The Water as Creator (Tiawath and Merodach)
In older Akkadian mythology, there wasn't a dragon to be conquered. Instead, the watery deep generated the serpent-deity of wisdom, Hea, who was infinite.  Hea later became identified, then subsumed, by Tiamat, when dualism and conflict became part of the narrative. 
An Assyrian version of the creation myth can be interpreted as an intermediate between the stories of Nammu and the combat between Marduk and Tiamat. 
In this version, Marduk, called Bel Merodach, acted as the "Lord of Life" and "Quickener of the Dead." He armed himself with lightning, blazing fire, a net, and winds.  When he found Tiamat, called Tiawath, he trapped her in his net, drove the winds into her throat to burst her body, and ripped her open with a sickle-shaped sword. From this destruction, he created the heavens and the earth. 
The legend began when neither the heaven nor the earth were named, there was only the primeval ocean, and the producer of all things, Mummu Tiawath, or the sea. All the waters were united as one, and no land had yet formed.  No gods yet existed, and even the fates were undetermined, as there was no future decided for anything. 
After a long period of time, the host of heaven and the host of earth came into existence, the first being Lahmu and Lahame.  Later, the names of Tiawath, Mummu, and Apsu were considered weaker or less appropriate when compared to the progeny of Lahmu and Lahame, the high gods. 
As the number of gods grew, Apsu complained that he no longer had peace or rest. The three representatives of the abyss, or the chaotic deep, were Tiawath, Mummu, and Apsu,  and their goal was to retain the power of creation, to keep the formation of all living things to themselves.  And they came together to rid themselves of the newer deities.  No further mentions of Mummu and Apsu were mentioned in this version, which suggests that the missing portions of the story include their deaths. [35,36]
The story continued with Tiawath preparing for war by creating monsters and horrible weapons. She set her army under the command of Kingu, who carried the tablets of destinies.  When the gods saw her intent, they were afraid, but Ansar believed the dragon's wrath could be tempered if only Anu would speak to her.  But when Anu saw Tiamat's snarling face, he turned back. Nudimmud tried next, but his bravery failed as well. 
So, Merodach became their champion, and in return he asked that his would be an unchangeable command, meaning that whatever he ordered would come to pass without fail. This he was granted, and he tested this power on a piece of clothing. 
He spake with his mouth, and the garment was destroyed,
He spake to it again, and the garment was reproduced.
-- Assyrian Creation Myth 
Honors were conveyed onto Merodach, along with a scepter. He then armed himself with a spear, darts, a bow, and a quiver, and he collected his strength, filling his body with fire as lighting flashed before him.  Anu presented him a great net supported by the four cardinal points and the seven terrible winds. Thus prepared, Merodach mounted his dreadful chariot and went to battle for the gods. 
Upon his advance, Tiawath retreated,  but the sight of her was so menacing that even Merodach wavered in his conviction.  Still, the two joined in combat. Tiawath used charms and incantations to overcome him, but she failed. 
Merodach enclosed Tiawath with a net and held her lips apart with the winds. Thus inflated, her heart was overpowered, and she began to beg her conqueror. He cut her asunder and removed her heart, killing her, and then rounded up her minions. They were put in prison, except for Kingu, who was delivered to the god of death. 
The latter elements of this myth, including the battle between Merodach and Tiawath and his subsequent ordering of the cosmos, are very similar to the contents of the Enuma Elish.
The Battle of Creation (Tiamat and Marduk)
There were many variations on the battle between Tiamat, the primordial chaos that generated life, and the younger deities that conjured order from that chaos. Perhaps the most popular version of the battle came from the Babylonian Enuma Elish.
The world became more complicated,  as the gods grew in number,  and various beings became more active in the world.  Disagreement erupted between the primordial entities of Apsu and Tiamat and the younger deities.  The ancient gods remained inert, while the younger deities became restless.  The primeval deities hated the uproar  of the new gods, who distributed all forms of tranquility.  Meanwhile, the younger deities were hard-working and saw the older gods as privileged and indolent. 
Thus, Tiamat and her husband quarreled with the younger gods.  The escalation of the conflict varies by source.
In another, Apsu simply wanted to return to silence, so he spoke with Tiamat about his plan to exterminate the others. She became furious with his suggestion to destroy what they had created, but despite her protests, he continued his plot in secret. 
Ea kept his wits, even as his siblings panicked over their father's plan.  Ea recited a spell  to cast Apsu into a deep sleep, and slew him.  Ea took his father's crown and cloak and gained control of deep underground ocean, called the apsu,  where he lived with his wife Damkina. There, they conceived and bore a son named Marduk, who had four eyes and four ears. 
The cause of the next intensification of battle also varies by source.
In one variation, Anu, grandfather of Marduk, constructed the four winds as toys for his grandson, but his game raised storms across the surface of Tiamat, the sea, and disturbed the other deities. This brought contempt for the dragon, as the other gods taunted her for failing to avenge the death of her husband. Only then did she agree to destroy the young god Marduk. 
In an Akkadian version, the gods decided that Kingu (also spelled Qingu) was the responsible party that pushed Tiamat into full war with the gods. 
Tiamat prepared for battle,  so she could go to war with Marduk.  She furnished her son and new consort, Kingu, with the Tablet of Destinies, imbuing him with tremendous power.  Kingu commanded her army of monsters, which she armed with weapons of horror and dread.  The gods of the night sky and the star gods joined her campaign. 
When the gods witnessed her preparations and the army she had crafted, terror seized them.  Tiamat herself was immense  and had a hide so thick that her body was impenetrable by any weapon,  making her nearly invincible. 
They [the gods] gave him matchless weapons that ward off foes:
"Go and cut off the life of Tiamat.
May the winds bear her blood to places undisclosed."
-- Enuma Elish 
As soon as he was chosen, Marduk prepared for battle. Since no weapon could penetrate her hide, Marduk decided he would make no attempt to defeat her by cutting through it.  Instead, he made many weapons to fight the dragon, including the first bow, arrow, and quiver; a huge net to trap her;  a box-cord; a great and terrible mace; and the lighting, with a blazing flame.  He called the four winds (North, South, East, and West) that each might hold a corner of the net. 
Marduk also created the seven winds of vengeance: 
- the Fourfold Wind [25,45]
- the Sevenfold Wind [25,45]
- the Whirlwind [25,45]
- the Hurricane  also called the Cold Wind  and simply, the storm 
- the Imhullu, 'the Evil Wind'  also called the Hot Wind  or the parching blast 
- the Cyclone  sometimes called the Sandstorm  and the typhoon 
- the Destroying Tempest  also called the Matchless Wind  and the incomparable wind 
Marduk then climbed onto his chariot,  and cast his weapons into battle. Tiamat's army, even Kingu, became confused and distracted by the four winds.  And so he raced directly towards Tiamat  taunted her into direct combat:
[To] enraged [Tiamat] he sent word as follows:
"Why are thou risen, art haughtily exalted,
Thou has charged thine own heart to stir up conflict... sons reject their own fathers,
Whilst thou, who hast born them, has foresworn love!
Thou has appointed Kingu as they consort,
Conferring upon him the rank of Anu, not rightfully his,
Against Anshar, king of the gods, thou seekest evil,
[Against] the gods, my fathers, thou hast confirmed thy wickedness.
[Though] drawn up be thy forces, girded on they weapons,
Stand thou up, that I and thou meet in single combat!"
When Tiamat heard this,
She was like one possessed; she took leave of her senses.
In fury Tiamat cried out aloud.
To the roots her legs shook both together.
She recited a charm, keeps casting her spell,
While the gods of battle sharpen their weapons.
Then joined issue Tiamat and Marduk, wisest of gods.
They strove in single combat, locked in battle.
The dragon charged Marduk, lashing out with her tail, and she opened her terrible maw to swallow him.  Marduk commanded the Hot Wind, which pinned her jaws open,  and then he cast his net to hold her mouth open  and to trap her.  He then forced the six winds in through Tiamat's open mouth, distending her body  by filling her stomach, so that the dragon became very weak. 
The following excerpt describes the battle:
The lord spread out his net to enfold her,
the Evil Wind, which followed behind, he let loose in her face.
When Tiamat opened her mouth to consume him,
He drove in the Evil Wind that she closed not her lips.
As the fierce winds charged her belly,
Her body was distended and her mouth was wide open.
It cut through her insides, splitting her heart.
He cast down her carcass to stand upon it.
After he had slain Tiamat, the leader,
Her band was shattered, her troupe broken up;
And the gods, her helpers who marched at her side,
Trembling with terror, turned their backs about,
In order to save and preserve their lives.
Tightly encircled, they could not escape.
And turned back to Tiamat who he had bound.
The lord trod on the legs of Tiamat,
With his unsparing mace he crushed her skull.
When the arties of her blood he had severed,
The North Wind bore (it) to places undisclosed.
On seeing his, his fathers were joyful and jubilant,
They brought gifts of homage, they to him.
Her army was captured with a net, and Marduk took the Tablets of Destinies from Kingu and fastened them to his own chest. 
He then decided to create a new creature to bear the drudgery of the gods, and he decided to call these creatures Lullu, 'Man.'  So he took Kingu, the leader of the revolt, and gave him due punishment. 
They imposed on him his guilt and severed his blood (vessels).
Out of his blood they fashioned mankind.
He imposed the service and let free the gods.
-- Enuma Elish 
Following Marduk's instructions, Ea created humans. 
The Two Waters (Tauthe and Apason)
Myths from the Neo-Babylonians, also called the Chaldeans, explained that creation came from the two waters. The Greek writer Damascius compiled The Theogonies around 550 AD  which contained a version of the creation myth.
The first two were the wife and husband Tauthe and Apason.  The name Tauthe referred to the sea, and the name Apason meat the deep.  They came together, and their first child was a son, Moymis,  also called Mummu.  From them, other progeny came, finally resulting in the Belus, the fabricator of the world. 
The combination of the personifications of the sea and the deep formed the primeval matter from which all creation sprang, including the gods themselves.  In this way, Tauthe was considered the mother of the deities but not necessarily of all creation. 
The Enuma Elish predated The Theogonies, so Damascius could have received some of his knowledge from this older myth. In the Enuma Elish, the first being to exist was Mummu Tiamatu, which meant 'sea chaos.' The names used by Damascius, Moymis and Tauthe, were likely derived from Mummu Tiamatu. 
The Lady of the Moon and Sea (Omoroka or Thalath)
The Chaldean, or Neo-Babylonians, had other myths, which included a deity named Omoroka, who was a moon and sea goddess. The supreme deity cut her in two to form the sky and the earth. 
The Chaldean writer Berosus  recorded a history of Babylon that included the creation of the world. [5,42] In these later times, she was called Omorka, Omoroka, or Marcaia, though they are less trusted than the older names of Tiamat.  Berosus also called her Thalath, which was likely a derivative from the name Tiamatu or Tiamat. 
Berosus obtained his information from Ea, the deity of wisdom.  According to Berosus, as the gods came into being with Ea, his wisdom's reflections transformed into the woman Omoroka, sometimes called Thavatth by the Chaldeans and Thalassa by the Greeks.  Omoroka meant the deep or the sea, which to the Chaldeans corresponded to the Moon. Thus, she was the woman of the moon and sea.  As the Moon, she presided over the deep and its monstrous beings,  which were all in her charge,  and, therefore, she was the queen of the abyss.  Thus, she was a later form of the dragon Tiamat. 
Then Belus came and cut her asunder, destroying all the creatures within her, [4,5] likely meaning that he destroyed all the monstrous creations in the watery deep along with her. From half of her body, he formed the earth, and with the other half, he shaped the heavens. 
The Other Manifestations of Tiamat
The Sumerians also had a goddess named Bau, also spelled Baau or Ba'u, who was a primeval goddess of the dark waters.  She was a creator and water deity that preceded Tiamat;  some Bau's aspects became transferred into Ninhursag  and associated with Gula, but Tiamat subsumed Bau's primeval functions. 
The Amorites, or Old Babylonians, also called Tiamat by the name Hubar. As Hubar, she was the personification of the river in the underworld by the same name. [59,61] This name was also invoked when referencing Tiamat as the mother of monsters, 'Mother Hubar.' In this manifestation, she made giant snakes, terrifying dragons, and other dangerous entities. 
Tiamat was variously described as an enormous water snake  or a dragon,  or at least visualized as a dragon  Sometimes she was the seven-headed serpent of the Akkadians that beat the waves of the sea. [10,11] Although she was also depicted a winged seven-headed dragon with scales all over her body and terrible claws. 
Later Babylonian depictions displayed Tiamat with the head of a lion, a forked serpent's tongue, the legs of an eagle, feathered wings, and scales across her body.  By this time, the lion was a symbol of royal power,  and Marduk's symbol was the dragon. 
Earlier presentations depicted Marduk walking over the serpentine body of Tiamat,  and in the Enuma Elish, she had a vast, serpentine body, a long tale, two forelegs, and huge horns upon her head.  In this way, she was nearly invincible.  She was 300 miles (483 km) long with a 100-foot (30 m) circumference,  and her body was impenetrable, either because of her scales  or the thickness of her hide.  Her mouth was either 10 feet (3 m) wide  or 7 miles (11.2 km) wide.  Tiamat was so enormous that she moved with undulations 6 miles (9.65 km) high. 
- Tiamat was the cosmic dragon, or world dragon, of ancient Mesopotamia. 
- Her consort was Apsu. 
- She existed before the other deities. 
- She was the primal goddess of the saltwater seas 
- She was also called the Dragon of the Deep. 
- As Mother Hubar, she crafted monsters. 
- Her earliest manifestation was Nammu, the primeval sea. 
- In an older Assyrian creation myth, Tiamat, as Tiawath, battled Merodach  so she could keep the power of creation to herself and the other primordial deities. 
- As Omoroka, she was the Queen of the Abyss. 
- Tiamat was described as an enormous water snake  or a dragon. 
- Sometimes, she was a winged seven-headed dragon with scales all over her body. 
- Marduk's symbol was the dragon. 
- In many of her manifestations, half of her body became the earth and the other half formed the heavens.
- Her blood became the sea. 
- Airey 13
- Airey 140
- Blavatsky 115
- Budge [Legends] 11
- Cory 25
- Cory 318
- Howey 167
- Howey 168
- Howey 169
- Howey 170
- Howey 171
- Kramer 39
- Kramer 40
- Kramer 70
- Kramer 73
- Kramer 74
- Kramer 75
- Kramer 76
- Kramer 114
- Leeming 382
- Littleton 84
- Littleton 86
- Littleton 88
- Lurie 24
- Lurie 26
- Lurie 27
- Mackenzie 328
- National Geographic [Essential] 26
- National Geographic [Essential] 27
- National Geographic [Essential] 42
- National Geographic [Essential] 43
- Pinches 31
- Pinches 32
- Pinches 33
- Pinches 34
- Pinches 35
- Pinches 36
- Pinches 37
- Pinches 38
- Pinches 39
- Pinches 40
- Pinches 41
- Pinches 104
- Pinches 119
- Pritchard 29
- Pritchard 30
- Pritchard 31
- Pritchard 32
- Pritchard 33
- Pritchard 34
- Pritchard 36
- Pritchard 37
- Roberts [Fathers] 61
- Rose [Dragons] 360
- Smith [Chaldean] 64
- Smith [Chaldean] 65
- Turner 93
- Turner 94
- Turner 226
- Turner 363
- Turner 466
- Woolf 62
- Lurker 345
- Blavatsky 54
- Haywood 1.10
- Haywood 1.11
- Haywood 1.12
- Haywood 1.13
- The Seven Tablets of Creation: The Fourth Tablet
For more information on footnotes and references, please see the bibliography.