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A response to the poem Emuma Elish

Write a response to Emuma Elish. In your response, discuss what this story tells us about the culture that created it. Draw as many conclusions as you can about what the story means, and what it might have meant for the Akkadian people of southern Mesopotamia about 3000 years ago. Speculate about the kinds of people that would have told this story. Keep in mind that the story involves the gods–not ordinary, everyday people. However, ordinary people would have been told the story again and again, often as part of rituals that would have drawn the community together for celebration and shared understanding.

The response is open-ended, but try to focus your writing in a meaningful way and draw upon examples from the story itself to support your conclusions. A few paragraphs up to a page (typed, double-spaced) would be an appropriate length. This is a 10-point exercise, counted toward the short-writing assignment average of the overall grade.

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A little more context:

Every culture tells a story of the origins of the world. Very often, these stories of origin serve to establish or explain the culture’s relations and practices–religious, political, and social. This is especially true of the origin stories told by the peoples of antiquity, who did not have our more modern interests in scientific exploration and discovery–at least not for its own sake. They looked to the past to understand their present. Ancient people were inquisitive in the same way we are today. They too asked, “who am I? who are you? who are we together? where did we come from?” They to speculated and invented answers. And importantly, they used stories to both explore and confirm their existence.

Often these myths were used for ritual purposes, as part of ceremonies to celebrate the new year or the seasons of planting and harvesting. Often they were told for political purposes–to understand or set up a form of government or a particular dynasty. Enuma Elish was recited at ceremonies to establish a new king who would have served as chief priest for the new year’s rituals. Thus, this kind of ceremony was both royal and divine in focus.

The epic poem recounts the origins of the gods and the creation of the world. It also explains the establishment of society to serve the gods, specifically how Marduk became king of the gods, and ruler. As you know from our translation, Enuma Elish is both the title used for the poem and the first words of the opening line.

The people of southern Mesopotamia of the culture were called Akkadians, and the language they used to communicate was called Akkadian and their writing is described as cuneiform. The poem is preserved on clay tablets written during the first millennium BCE (1000), but the epic was composed earlier, probably around 1500 BCE.

The work can be considered an “epic” because it’s written in narrative structure. It has plot and characters, and it is driven by conflicts which come to a climax and then resolve. The characters happen to be divine–gods–but they have very human-like qualities.

Refer to the commentary in the book or outside resources for additional context. Quote, paraphrase and cite in MLA format as needed.

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