Enuma Elish

Apsu, one of the two primordial Mesopotamian gods, is known as the begetter. He dwells with his consort, Tiamat, before anything else exists. When their offspring cause lots of noise, Apsu proposes to destroy them. Tiamat rejects this idea, but when his vizier, Mummu, urges him to go ahead with his wicked plan, Apsu heeds him. When Apsu’s son, Ea, finds out his plan, he casts a spell and slays Apsu, leading to Tiamat’s war with Marduk. “Apsu” is also the name of Ea’s dwelling-place, since it’s built on Apsu’s remains.

Apsu Quotes in Enuma Elish

The Enuma Elish quotes below are all either spoken by Apsu or refer to Apsu. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Order, Civilization, and Religion Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Oxford University Press edition of Enuma Elish published in 2009.
Tablet 1 Quotes

When skies above were not yet named
Nor earth below pronounced by name
Apsu, the first one, their begetter
And maker Tiamat, who bore them all,
Had mixed their waters together.
But had not formed pastures, nor discovered reed-beds;
When yet no gods were manifest.
Nor names pronounced, nor destinies decreed.
Then gods were born within them.

Related Characters: Tiamat, Apsu
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:
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Apsu made his voice heard
And spoke to Tiamat in a loud voice,
'Their ways have become very grievous to me.
By day I cannot rest, by night I cannot sleep.
I shall abolish their ways and disperse them!
Let peace prevail, so that we can sleep.'
When Tiamat heard this,
She was furious and shouted at her lover;
She shouted dreadfully and was beside herself with rage,
But then suppressed the evil in her belly. 'How could we allow what we ourselves created to perish?
Even though their ways are so grievous, we should bear it patiently.'

Related Characters: Tiamat (speaker), Apsu (speaker)
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Inside pure Apsu, Marduk was born.
Ea his father created him,
Damkina his mother bore him.
He suckled the teats of goddesses;
The nurse who reared him filled him with awesomeness;
Proud was his form, piercing his stare.
Mature his emergence, he was powerful from the start.
Anu his father's begetter beheld him,
And rejoiced, beamed; his heart was filled with joy.
He made him so perfect that his godhead was doubled.
Elevated far above them, he was superior in every way.

Related Characters: Marduk, Nudimmud / Ea, Apsu, Anu, Damkina
Page Number: 235
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

Tiamat was stirred up, and heaved restlessly day and night.
The gods, unable to rest, had to suffer . . .
They plotted evil in their hearts, and
They addressed Tiamat their mother, saying,
'Because they slew Apsu your lover and
You did not go to his side but sat mute,
He has created the four, fearful winds
To stir up your belly on purpose, and we simply cannot sleep!
Was your lover Apsu not in your heart?
And (vizier) Mummu who was captured? No wonder you sit alone!
Are you not a mother? You heave restlessly
But what about us, who cannot rest? Don't you love us?
Our grip(?) [is slack], (and) our eyes are sunken.
Remove the yoke of us restless ones, and let us sleep!
Set up a [battle cry] and avenge them!
Con[quer the enemy] and reduce them to nought!'

Related Characters: Tiamat, Apsu, Mummu
Related Symbols: Water
Page Number: 237
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Apsu Character Timeline in Enuma Elish

The timeline below shows where the character Apsu appears in Enuma Elish. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Tablet 1
Order, Civilization, and Religion Theme Icon
Before the skies or earth are named, Apsu, the “begetter,” and Tiamat, the “maker,” dwell together, “[mixing] their waters.” No pastures, reed-beds, or... (full context)
Order, Civilization, and Religion Theme Icon
Then, gods are born within Apsu and Tiamat: Lahmu and Lahamu, Anshar and Kishar. Anshar has a son named Anu, and... (full context)
Chaos vs. Council Theme Icon
...noise disturbs Tiamat; “their clamor reverberated.” The noise of their play “[stirs] up Tiamat’s belly.” Apsu can’t quiet them down, and Tiamat indulges their noise, even though it upsets her. (full context)
Chaos vs. Council Theme Icon
Finally Apsu summons his vizier, Mummu. The two sit before Tiamat and discuss the gods’ behavior. Apsu... (full context)
Chaos vs. Council Theme Icon
Mummu disagrees with Tiamat and counsels Apsu accordingly, urging him to put an end to the playful gods and their noisy ways.... (full context)
Order, Civilization, and Religion Theme Icon
When the gods hear of Apsu’s plan to destroy them, they fall silent. Ea, “superior in understanding,” finds out everything about... (full context)
Order, Civilization, and Religion Theme Icon
The Sovereignty of Marduk Theme Icon
After Ea’s triumph over Apsu, he builds his dwelling atop Apsu’s remains and gives a “triumphal cry.” He rests inside... (full context)
Chaos vs. Council Theme Icon
Feminine Power and Subjugation Theme Icon
...it. She says they should do as the children say; the gods who dwell within Apsu “adopted evil for the gods who begot them,” so they, in turn, should be disturbed.... (full context)
Tablet 2
Order, Civilization, and Religion Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Council Theme Icon
Feminine Power and Subjugation Theme Icon
Tiamat assembles the army of fearsome creatures, doing “even more evil for posterity than Apsu.” Meanwhile, Ea hears about what’s going on and is “dumbfounded.” After thinking for a while,... (full context)
Chaos vs. Council Theme Icon
Feminine Power and Subjugation Theme Icon
...account, he is distraught. Anshar tells Ea that because he started the fight by slaying Apsu, he’s responsible for cleaning up the mess. (full context)
Tablet 4
Order, Civilization, and Religion Theme Icon
The Sovereignty of Marduk Theme Icon
Chaos vs. Council Theme Icon
Feminine Power and Subjugation Theme Icon
...her waters are securely contained. He then constructs a greater shrine in the pattern of Apsu, his birthplace, and creates cult centers in the sky for lesser gods, including Ea. (full context)