Enûma Elish is recorded on seven clay tablets. The majority of Tablet V has never been recovered, but aside from this lacuna the text is almost complete.
This epic is one of the most important sources for understanding the Babylonian worldview, centered on the supremacy of Marduk and the existence of mankind for the service of the gods. Its primary original purpose, however, is not an exposition of theology or theogony, but the elevation of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, above the gods of the other Mesopotamian cultures.
The epic names three primeval gods: Apsu, the fresh water, Tiamat, the salt water, and their son Mummu, apparently the mist. Several other gods are created, and raise such a clamor of noise that Apsu is provoked (with Mummu's connivance) to destroy them. Ea (Nudimmud), at the time the most powerful of the gods, intercepts the plan, puts Apsu to sleep and kills him, and shuts Mummu out. Ea then begets a son, Marduk, greater still than himself.
Tiamat is then persuaded to take revenge for the death of her husband. Her power grows, and some of the gods join her. She elevates Kingu and gives him "supreme dominion." A lengthy description of the other gods' inability to deal with the threat follows. Ultimately, Marduk is selected as their champion against Tiamat, and becomes very powerful. He defeats Tiamat, and forms the world from her corpse. The subsequent hundred lines or so constitute the lost section of Tablet V.
The gods who sided with Tiamat are initially forced to labor in the service of the other gods. They are freed from their servitude when Marduk decides to slay Kingu and create mankind from his blood. Babylon is established as the residence of the chief gods. Finally, the gods confer kingship on Marduk, hailing him with fifty names. Most noteworthy is Marduk's symbolic elevation over Enlil, who was seen by earlier Mesopotamian civilizations as the king of the gods.