• $5.99

Publisher Description

The figure of Apsu, father of the great gods, makes but a fleeting appearance in the late-second-millennium-B.C.E. Babylonian epic Enuma elis. (1) Tidily disposed of within the first seventy lines of Tablet I, he has at best a peripheral and passive presence in the remainder of the text, his corpse serving as the foundation for Ea's dwelling and his death providing a plausible, if insufficient, justification for Tiamat's subsequent transformation from protective mother to raging destroyer. Under these circumstances, the Apsu episode might reasonably be read as a mere preface to the main action, technically useful to, but nonetheless distinct from, the central conflict between Tiamat and Marduk. Such a reading, however, would miss out both on those features of the incident that are interesting in their own right and on the importance of the Apsu episode to the broader arc of the narrative. The problem of accurately pinpointing Apsu's role and identity within Enuma elis, whether as monster or personified or deified subterranean waters, (2) springs both from the shifting nature of his depiction in the narrative and from the writing of his name therein, which never includes the divine determinative that marks the gods proper within the text. (3) Portrayed as an elemental entity at the opening of the epic as he mingles his waters with those of Tiamat, Apsu does not remain so for long. Once the first gods are generated from his intercourse with Tiamat, (4) beginning the process of differentiation, Apsu himself seems to morph into a sort of proto-god, still not endowed with the dingir-determinative but newly provided with anthropomorphic features and with insignia reflecting his new rank and status: He is given both a voice and a mouth with which to speak (Ee I 35-36); a more or less anthropomorphic physical form (1 53-54), (5) clothing or insignia including at least an agu, crown; and possibly also a riksu, sash or tie (I 67); (6) melammu (I 68); (7) and a rudimentary household of the type standard for the great gods, though here simply comprising his vizier or counselor Mummu (I 30-31).

October 1
American Oriental Society
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

More Books by The Journal of the American Oriental Society