TIAMAT tĭ ä’ mät, the name of the goddess of the primordial salt water ocean, the antagonist of the hero-god in the great Babylonian national epic, Enūma eliš. In the Mesopotamian texts the name is written with a set of pseudoideographic signs, the phonetic element ti followed by the Sumer. compound GEMEAN, meaning in this case, “ti-(woman-mountain)” but pronounced as ti-am’at in the lexical lists. Tiamat is a great ugly monster who becomes angry with her own offspring of an innumerable set of lesser gods, similar to the cosmogony of Hesiod. The lesser gods select a champion, in the older stories Marduk, in the later Aššur, who then fights a cosmic battle with the chaotic sea. As a result the dead corpse of Tiamat is divided up and separated into the lower and upper cosmos. Enūma eliš states in its parallelistic fashion: “He split her like a bivalve into two parts, half of her he set above and ceiled it as sky, He set a bar, he set out watchmen, he exhorted them not to let her waters escape” (IV:137-140). There are literary allusions to this myth in many Near Eastern traditions.
The often proposed connection between the Biblical Heb. term תְּהוֹם, H9333,