Apsû, Apzû 

Provenance: Mesopotamia (Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian)
Gender: Male
Divine Attributes: Fresh Water
Name’s Meaning: Deep Water
Titles, Epithets, and other DescriptorsThe Primeval, The Primeval Sea
Consort/s: Tiamat
Progeny: Lahamu and Lahmu (w/ Tiamat), Kingu (w/ Tiamat), Possibly Anzu
Attested in Literature: Enuma Elish
Regional/Cultural Identity: Dari or Duri (Sumerian), Abzû, Engur (Sumerian), Apsû (Akkadian/Babylonian/Assyrian), Apason (Neoplatonic Greek), Nu (Egyptian)

Apsû, Apzû 

Apsû was one of the two oldest chronologically attested deities in the Babylonian and Assyrian (Semitic) traditions, and therefore considered a primordial god. His death, or murder, triggered a series of events that led to a war. This period, according to most mythological timelines, is generally referred to as “Chaos.”


Spelled 𒀊𒍪 Apzû in Sumerian, or Apsû in Akkadian, it means deep (zu) water (ab). After Apsû was killed, his name was used for Ea’s damhouse in the city of Eridu. 

Titles and Epithets

In different versions of the Enuma Elish, Apsû is referred to as “The Primeval” and “Primeval Sea.” 

Divine Portfolio 

Apsû was a primordial deity associated with fresh water. He is not known to be associated with any symbols, animals, or celestial bodies/constellations. 

Attested Chronological Range

The earliest reference to Apsû in literature comes from the Enuma Elish, which appears to have been composed during early Kassite rule over Babylon (ca 1600 BCE). However, other regional counterparts are recorded up to a millennium earlier. 


As a primordial deity he has no named predecessors, but according to some texts he does have multiple children. In the Sumerian myth, the Epic of Anzu, Anzu is described as a son of Apzû, while in other translations he is born from the holy waters of the gods. In the Babylonian Enuma Elish, Apsu fathers Lahmu and Lahamu. In the Assyrian Enuma Elish, Lahmu is referred to as Ea, and Lahamu is referred to as Damkina. Other late Babylonian texts, such as the Defeat of Enmersharra, make an indirect allusion to a brother of Lahmu, who most know of as Kingu or Enmersharra. Kingu and Enmersharra’s connection is further confirmed by multiple god lists, one being the Seven Conquered Enlils.

Regional Counterparts

Just as Apsû was the primordial god of the deep, as was his Egyptian counterpart Nu. Both and their consorts, Tiamat and Naunet, were associated with water. Most notably, from their primordial waters came a sun god which was symbolized by a serpent, the Egyptian Atum and the Babylonian Lahmu. Both sun gods/serpents created a mound, the Babylonian Apsû or the Egyptian benben. The Egyptian Ogdoad itself predates the Babylonian tradition by a millennium, confirming that at least a few components of the Enuma Elish have traveled and survived much longer than what most of academia currently concludes. 


As one of the two primordial waters of chaos, Apsû is often conflated with the primordial waters of  creation. Based on his name, his epithets, and how Ea slew him then built a dam by the same name, it is not unreasonable to assume that Apsû was a river. A river that perhaps flooded Eridu, and that was later tamed by Ea. However, there is just as much reason to believe that Apsû was also a prehistoric ruler who sought to maintain power by killing his first born son as referenced in the Enuma Elish. 

Attested in Literature

Apsû, as a deity, is mentioned primarily in the Enuma Elish, and perhaps in the Myth of Anzu.