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Mesopotamia / Religions / Gods and goddesses /
Babylonia / Religion /
Marduk



Marduk with his dragon

The Etemenanki ziggurat at Babylon with Marduk's shrine on top.
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The Etemenanki ziggurat at Babylon with Marduk's shrine on top.

The supreme god of Babylonian and Assyrian religion, originally the god of thunderstorms with the Amonites. His period as a great god lasted from the 18th century BCE until perhaps 484 BCE when the Persian king Xerxes 1 had his gold statue removed.
Marduk was associated with, or represented by, a selection of sacred animals. These were horses, dogs and a dragon with a forked tongue. Marduk is often represented either walking or on his war chariot. In his hand he holds a sceptre, and he carries either a bow, a spear, a net or a thunderbolt.
There were several accounts on who was Marduk's wife. The most popular was that it was the goddess the Zarpanitu.
In the epic Enuma Elish, Marduk defeats Tiamat and Kingu, the gods that challenged the stability of cosmos. With these victories, Marduk is lifted up to the supreme position among the gods. Following his victory, Marduk created heaven and earth, arranged the planets and stars and created the human race.
He was adorned with 50 titles, of which Bel, meaning "lord" was the highest. As the supreme god of Babylon, he was simply called Bel.
The explanation of why Marduk was lifted up to the supreme god, replacing Ea and Enlil must be read as a reflection of the power struggle of Mesopotamia, where the Amorites conquered the region. Their supreme god was Marduk. Upon taking control over Babylonia, they needed legitimacy for transferring power to them. A reflective myth was the result, the Enuma Elish.
Marduk was at times challenged by the cult of Enlil, but he would always regain his position. After about 1000 BCE, Assyria's supreme god Anshur would challenge, but Marduk kept his strong position in the south of Mesopotamia.
Marduk would be honoured also by Assyrian and Persian kings. Some of the Persian rulers had some of his temples rebuilt.
Marduk had 2 chief temples in Babylon, Esagila and Etemenanki. In Esagila temple, the Enuma Elish was recited during the important New Year Festival. The Etemenanki was a ziggurat with a Marduk shrine on the top.





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By Tore Kjeilen