The Enûma Eliš (Akkadian Cuneiform: 𒂊𒉡𒈠𒂊𒇺, also spelled "Enuma Elish"), is the Babylonian creation myth (named after its opening words). It was recovered by Austen Henry Layard in 1849 (in fragmentary form) in the ruined Library of Ashurbanipal at Nineveh (Mosul, Iraq). A form of the myth was first published by George Smith in 1876; active research and further excavations led to near completion of the texts, and improved translations.
The Enûma Eliš exists in various copies from Babylon and Assyria. The version from the Library of Ashurbanipal dates to the 7th century BCE. The composition of the text probably dates to the Bronze Age, or even early to the time of Hammurabi - some elements of the myth are attested by illustrations that date to at least as early as the Kassite era (roughly 18th to 16th centuries BCE). The Enûma Eliš has about a thousand lines and is recorded in Old Babylonian on seven clay tablets, each holding between 115 and 170 lines of Sumero-Akkadian cuneiform script. Most of Tablet V has never been recovered but, aside from this lacuna, the text is almost complete.
The Enuma Elis is the primary source for Mesopotamian cosmology.Template:Sfn According to Heidel its main purpose was as a praise of Marduk, and was important in making that Babylonian god head of the entire pantheon, through his deeds in defeating Tiamat, and in creation of the universe.Template:Sfn Heidel also considers the text to have a political as well as religious message - that is - the promotion to primacy of a Babylonia god to better justify any Babylonia influence over the whole mespotamian region.Template:Sfn The text as a whole contains many words which are Sumerian in origin, including the names of Tiamat's monsters, Marduk's wind, and the name for man used is the Sumerian lullu; however the chief god in the epic is the Babylonia Marduk, and not the Sumerian Enlil.Template:Sfn
The epic is an intricate source for understanding the Babylonian worldview. Over the seven tablets it describes the creation of the world, a battle between gods focused on supremacy of Marduk, the creation of man destined for the service of the Mesopotamian deities, and ends with a long passage praising Marduk. Its primary original purpose is unknown - a version is known to have been used for certain festivals - there may also have been a political element to the myth, centered on the legitimization or primacy of Mesopotomia over Assyria - some later versions replace Marduk with the Assyrian primary god Ashur.