Literature and Film as Modern Mythology

By William K. Ferrell | Go to book overview

Chapter 6
A Return to Matriarchy

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

An old story, and one that perhaps was a forerunner of Greek myths, comes from ancient Babylon, successor to the ancient Akkadian Empire. Around 3000 B.C.E. in what is now Iran and Iraq, an empire arose known as Sumeria. In the first known written story of creation, composed around 2500 B.C.E. by the Babylonians, Marduk, a sun god, fought an epic battle against Tiamat, goddess of the oceans and creator of Marduk. When Tiamat was slain, her body was severed into two parts, the top half becoming the heavens and the lower half the earth, both land and sea. In this act, as in later Greek myths and the Bible's Genesis, Marduk, being masculine and the more powerful, establishes a male dominance that probably spread throughout the Middle East and into Europe by Greek and Roman conquests. (It should be noted that Asian myths do not separate the powers of male and female gods; however, the female deities are more involved in creation.)

Early creation stories are similar in that they begin with chaos, which is in some way organized into the earth and the sky (firmament) by a creator. In communicating this story, most primitive cultures anthropomorphize (give human form to nonhuman entities) the forms by assigning the sky a male identity and the earth female. As all known life emanates from the earth, this would account for the almost universal concept of Mother Earth, or, as she was known by the Greeks, Gaea (English prefix geo). For the Greeks, Gaea and Uranos (the heavens) created the Titans, who created the gods. In the battle for domination between the Titans, led by Gaea and Uranos, and the gods under the command of Zeus, the gods won. Zeus,

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