Mesopotamian Goddess Tiamat: History & Symbols

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you're going to learn how the world was created, ancient Mesopotamian style. In order to do so, this lesson is going to center on a primordial goddess called Tiamat.


Just about every culture and civilization has a story of creation. How did the heavens and the earth come to be? The ancient Mesopotamians tried to answer this question in their own way. Ancient Mesopotamians lived in the cradle of civilization, an area now occupied by Syria, Turkey and Iraq. It centered around two important rivers called the Tigris and Euphrates.

You're about to learn how these rivers, the earth, heavens and more were created because this lesson is going to go over the mythological history and symbolism tied to a primordial Mesopotamian goddess called Tiamat and how she's tied to the creation of our world.


The Babylonian Epic of Creation tells us that at one point, the heavens and the earth separated. At that point, the only 'things' in existence were primordial beings called Apsu and Tiamat. Apsu symbolized fresh underground waters while Tiamat symbolized the salt (ocean) waters. Her name is a form of a word known as 'tiamtum' or 'tamtu', which means sea. It's unclear if she was symbolized with a slightly human shape to her, if she looked more like an ocean does to us, if the salt waters were inside of her or not. Much remains unclear.

Mythological History

What we know is that Apsu was a male being and Tiamat was a female. Apparently they were a pair although in some texts it's claimed they were sort of the same as their waters mixed together. As the water mixed, Tiamat gave rise to gods like Lahmu and Lahamu, who then in turn gave rise to Ansar and Kisar. The latter two gave rise to a very important god called Anu (An) who had a son called Ea (Enki).

Apsu was unhappy with the way his children were behaving and so was determined to kill them. He didn't get far. Eventually Ea killed Apsu, being the good great-great grandchild that he was. Tiamat was having none of this ancient Jerry Springer show. She was going to avenge Apsu's death one way or another.

So she created not one, not two, but eleven monsters! She also created a god, the guy in charge of all her military forces, called Qingu. He was basically her knight in shining armor and, maybe, even a lover.

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