Free Mythology Essay Example
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The Enuma Elis is among the oldest creation myths in the world. Given its geographic proximity to the Semitic peoples, it has been posited that there might be similarities between it and the creation myths of the Bible. At first glance, the two seem completely incompatible – the Bible clearly talks about there being only one supreme creator god, with no other deity being mentioned until later in the book of Genesis. The Babylonian myth, as recorded in the Enuma Eli, on the other hand, forms, what could be considered a ‘godly (or god-driven) battle for supremacy’.
Many ancient myths regarding creation, such as the Greek and Mesopotamian ones, see creation as a violent process where gods battle one another to gain power and supremacy. This dialectic is conspicuously absent in both creation myths of Genesis – the both speak of one and only one god who had no opposition. However, there is one clue in the bible to hint that the creation myth here might be an extension of the myth in Enuma Elis just as Enuma Elis is likely an extension of earlier Mesopotamian myths – that before the act of creation, there was chaos and the void. The god Babylonian Marduk was symbolically raised higher than the Mesopotamian God Enlil and it can be argued that, in the hands of the ancient Jews, the Babylonian myth morphed into the Judeo-Christian myth with the god Elohim being symbolically raised above the all other gods (note that in the Ten Commandments, it is said that the Israelites should have ‘no other gods before me’ – it never states that there are no other gods, only that they are false, which could mean weak and unworthy as much as unreal).
Returning to the idea of the godly (or god-driven) battle for supremacy it can be said that the gods of the Babylonians warred ‘within’ themselves, whereas the god of the Israelites (at least as far as the creation myths are concerned) was battle outside himself. This means that the ‘war for supremacy’ took place in different realms – for the Babylonians it took place within the narrative itself with Marduk slaying Tiamat and Kingu to become the supreme god, whereas in the book of Genesis, the God is placed simply as the supreme god with the Israelites as his chosen people. Moreover, as seen in the Flood myth of Genesis, despite providing proof for the fact that he (Elohim) is a jealous god who would not tolerate his people worshipping other gods, these other gods are voiceless puppets. Elohim is therefore seen as the supreme god who makes decisions based on objective truth (Noah being the only good man left on earth was worth saving) whereas the gods of the Babylonians were more human and based decisions on whims (Ea saved Utnapishtim simply because he wished to.
Joseph Campbell posited the theory of the Monomyth – that all mythic heroes share a common ‘lineage’, insomuch that their legends follow the same overall pattern. This idea of the monomyth, while useful for understanding and comparing myths between different and, most importantly, far flung cultures, does not seem well adapted to explaining the myths which originated in opposition to each other within a given geographical location. The creation myths in the Middle East, for example, lend a different color to the flood myth insomuch that with the creation of Noah, the Israelites did not so much create a myth of their own with a common mythic structure, rather they appropriated a myth from abroad which, possibly by accident, implied that they also appropriated their form and structure. The idea that there could be a grand overarching structure does not seem likely given the hundreds, if not thousands or millions of different ways in which stories and narrative forms can be transmitted and transformed between cultures.
Greek culture was undeniably patriarchal and existed in an era when romantic love was not considered a valid reason for marriage. As such marriage was arranged and husband and wife were more socio-economic partners than romantic lovers. With this as the case, jealousy is a sign of rivalry between the master of external affairs (the patriarch) and the mistress of home affairs (matriarch). Their children – sons to the father and daughters to the mother; would clearly become extensions of themselves. But in the myth of Zeus and Hera, where Zeus gives birth to Athena and Hera to Hephaestus, one sees that there is a heightening of tension between the marital unit where each ‘trespasses’ on the other’s territory. However, the strong patriarchal system is reinforced when Athena was made the favorite daughter of Zeus (meaning at least a kind of control system in place between them, even if only emotional) while Hera’s loathing of the ugly Hephaestus can be seen as a mother’s inability to control sons. This is therefore a reinforcement of patriarchy.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Novato, California: New World
Library, 2008. Print.
Littleton, C. Scott. Gods, Goddesses and Mythology. New York: Marshall Cavendish,