The Enûma Eliš is the longest and most comprehensive Mesopotamial creation myth we know of. It appears on seven tablets recovered from the Library of Ashurbanipal, and is written in the Old Babylonian language. These tablets were discovered in 1849 by A.H. Layard and have long since had an important impact on Biblical studies. The initial creation myth can be summarised as follows: -
Apsû and Tiamat (personifications of the fresh and salty primordial waters) exist before the heavens and earth come into being. Upon joining their waters, the first of the gods are fashioned within them: these are Laḫmu and Laḫamu, who go on to sire Anšar and Kišar, the parents of Anu, the god of the heavens. Anu became father of Nudimmud (i.e. Enki or Ea).
by this stage, the noise of their increasingly-mighty god children caused Apsû and Tiamat a great deal of annoyance, leading to much distress. Eventually, Apsû dispatches his vizier Mummu to complain about the noise. Mummu counsels Apsû to take action and, as a result of Mummu's counsel, Apsû plans to kill the gods. Tiamat, however, warns Ea, who induces Apsû to fall asleep, before killing him and imprisoning Mummu.
Ea is thus installed as lord of the Apsû, the subterranean source of all fresh water. He marries and has a son, Marduk.
Some time later, at the instigation of the gods, Tiamat rises in an attempt to avenge Apsû, to which end, she brings forth eleven monsters: -
Additionally, Tiamat marries her associate Kingu, and grants him the three "Tablets of Destiny," which confer upon him the supreme power. The gods prove powerless to oppose Tiamat's forces - all apart from Marduk, who extracts a promise of supremacy, before agreeing to sally forth on the gods' (those, that is, who haven't defected to Tiamat's cause) behalf.
Marduk defeats Tiamat and her retinue with the various special weapons at his disposal, and proceeds to tear her cadaver in two, from which he forms the earth and the heavens, before proceeding to order the newly-founded cosmos. Tiamat's erstwhile allies are forced to labour on behalf of those loyal to Marduk's cause: their toil is brought to an end when Marduk slays Kingu and, from the blood, fashions the first humans to serve as the gods' labour force.
Notably, some of Tiamat's creations feature in myths relating to subsequent eras: the Girtablullû are set as guardians at the entrance to the cosmic axis Mount Mašu in the Epic of Gilgameš, while the Kulullû may be associated with Uanna, the first of the Abgal/Apkallu who brought knowledge to prediluvian mankind. Significantly, Uanna - known in Greek as Oannes, is said to have "finished the plans for heaven and earth."
The Eridu Genesis (so named by Thorkild Jacobsen) is a Sumerian account of creation, covering the period from the creation of the "black-headed people" to the time of the great Deluge during the time of the king Zi-ud-sura: -
The "black-headed people" are created by An, Enlil, Enki and Ninḫursaĝa shortly before the text picks up the story (animals too are created). In the account, mankind is assigned the task of labouring on the gods' behalf. Kingship then "descend[s] from heaven," and cities are allocated to particular deities: -
Eventually, An and Enlil decree that they will send a flood, seemingly to wipe out humanity and all other life: Enki, however, apparently manages to warn Zi-ud-sura (in contravention of a vow), who builds a boat and, eventually, manages to survive the cataclysm, along with animals. Zi-ud-sura is subsequently made immortal, and takes his place as "king in an overseas country, in the land Dilmun, where the sun rises."
Among other notices of creation from ancient Mesopotamian sources are those contained within the Sumerian class of "Debates," viz. the Debate Between Sheep and Grain; and the Debate Between Winter and Summer.
In the former, the scene begins with an assembly of the gods on the Harsag-anki ("Mountain of Heaven and Earth"), and describes a time when "[a] tree of Ezinu had not been born, had not become green," and "[l]and and water Takku had not created." The sun god Shamash appears and plans the creation of mankind, which is subsequently carried out.
In the beginning, according to the Barton Cylinder, a Sumerian document dating back to the Ur III dynasty, there was An ("Heaven") and Ki ("Earth"), whose matings led to cataclysmic storms between them. They gave rise to a second pair of gods, Enlil and, most probably, Ninhursag (more often seen as Enki's bride). They gave birth to seven sons, whilst a variety of watercourses came into being, borne of the Supreme Divine River. The world is then made abundant.
Some time later, there is a crisis at Nibru (Nippur), with droughts and famines causing an interruption of the food supply for the temple there, a crisis which is resolved by Ninurta, the hero-god who is, most likely (based on other sources), one of Enlil's sons.
The cosmology ascribed to the Phoenician Sanchuniathon appears in the work of Eusebius of Caesarea, who reports that, between himself & the original author, the material had been transmitted via Philo of Byblos. Sanchuniathon himself is, according to the Neoplatonist Porphyry, said to have gotten information from Hierombalus, priest of the god Ieuo during the reign of Abibalus of Berytus.
One creation account is ascribed to a certain Taautus, almost certainly none other than the Egyptian god & culture hero Thoth. This version - which bears some similarity to that given at the beginning of the Bible - features the following: -
According to "Sanchuniathon," the wind Colpias and his wife Baau ("Night") sired two mortals: Æon (who discovered food from trees) and Protogonus. Succeeding generations are named as follows: -
The Zoroastrian religion posits an essential Dualism between two competing opposites: Ahura Mazda (later: Ohrmazd), the good god; and Angra Mainyu (later: Ahriman), the origin of evil.
The Middle Persian Bundahishn recounts that Ahura Mazda (who knew of his nemesis' existence, while Angra Mainyu was ignorant of his) made the first move, creating a spiritual world in order to stymie Angra Mainyu's nefarious intentions. The material world (getig) was formed three thousand years later. In turn, he formed: -
With regards to the luminaries, they were created in the following order: -
The primitive earth was inhabited by Gayomart, the first man, as well as the "uniquely created bull" (Goshorun), a gigantic white bovine. Subsequently, Angra Mainyu breaks through the outer shell containing the nascent cosmos and crosses the outer sea, causing the passage of time (the sun begins to move), whilst the topography of the earth is changed.
Angra Mainyu's actions result in the death of the bull, whose soul cries out to Ahura Mazda for justice. Gayomart also dies.
Afterwards, battle is joined between the forces of good and evil, waged in the following order: -
Zurvanism was a heretical form of Zoroastrianism which posited the existence of time - Zurvan or Zruvan - as the first entity in existence and father of both Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu.
The Zurvanite account of creation, as reconstructed by R.C. Zaehner, proceeds as follows: -
Zaehner also gleaned three particular schools of Zurvanism: -
Zurvan ("time") is divided into reason (male) and lust (female): this idea shares similarities with Indic cosmology and gnostic ideas;
proposed that nothing could come from noting, but that there must be a first cause: one caveat of this belief system is that the spiritual realm did not exist per se, but represented that which had not yet acquired material form; and
took the idea that, given the 9,000 year limit on Ahriman's rule commanded by Zurvan, there was nothing which could alter this preordained course of the cosmos.
The Bundahishn declares that "one is he who is independent of unlimited time, because Ohrmazd and the region, religion, and time of Ohrmazd were and are and ever will be" [1.3] in what must be understood as an anti-Zurvanite statement.
Mazdakism was an extreme egalitarian form of Zoroastrianism developed by the mobad ("priest") Mazdak, which was fiercely opposed by the Sassanid rulers. Mazdak's worldview has come down to modernity only in distorted form. A brief synopsis follows: -
Light and darkness are two primal principles and "modes of being" which exited before the world. In common with the standard Zoroastrian interpretation, light acts with intent and through the agency of knowledge, perception and reason, whilst darkness acts blindly and arbitrarily. At the end of the world, these principles will be separated by chance rather than through free will.
Furthermore, and somewhat bizarrely given the origins of this sect, the "object of veneration" is comparable with the king. This object has four particular powers (i.e. four "'generals' of the heavens"): -
These are comparable with the four great Sassanian court offices: -
These four powers rule the world through the agency of seven ministers (perhaps the classical planets): -
These ministers "revolve" within twelve spiritual beings, most likely the zodiac, and the ruler of the upper world exercises governance through the "letters that represent the sum of his name."