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Wiener Offene Orientalistik

Band 1

in Zusammenarbeit mit Fachkollegen


herausgegeben am Institut für Orientalistik
der Universität Wien

von

Gebhard J. Selz
WOO, Band 1

Animal Symbolism in Mesopotamia

— A Contextual Approach —

Chikako E. Watanabe

Institut für Orientalistik der Universität Wien


Die Autorin: Dr. Chikako E. Watanabe studierte in Japan und England. Sie erwarb die akademischen Grade
eines B.A. und M.A. in Western Art History an der Gakushuin Universität in Tokyo, einen M.A. in Cuneiform
Studies an der Universität Birmingham, sowie den Doktor der Philosophie in Assyriologie an der Universität
Cambridge mit einer Arbeit über mesopotamische Tiersymbolik.

Dr. Watanabe veröffentlichte zahlreiche wissenschaftliche Arbeiten und hielt Vorträge auf verschiedenen
Kongressen. Im Studienjahr 1999-2000 war sie Visiting Professor am Institut für Orientalistik der Universität
Wien. Sie ist Professor für History & Comparative Culture, Departement of International Studies, am Osaka
Gakuin Junior College, Osaka, Japan.

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Selbstverlag des Instituts für Orientalistik der Universität Wien,
Spitalgasse 2, Hof 4
A-1090 Wien

ISBN: 3-900-345-08-2
Wiener Offene Orientalistik
Vorwort

Forschung bedarf der Öffentlichkeit. Vor allem in Europa wird jedoch das große
Interesse nur selten von den Fachwissenschaftlern selbst beantwortet. Entsprechend
bleibt die veröffentlichte Meinung nicht selten alten Klischees verhaftet. Der
aufklärerische Auftrag aller Wissenschaften, der Kulturwissenschaften allzumal,
scheint nur ungenügend erfüllt. Darin, und nicht etwa in der vermeintlichen
Überflüssigkeit der Kulturwissenschaften, liegt eine unerträgliche Verschwendung.
Im Bereich jeder Forschung, die als Grundlagenforschung sich versteht, ist der
fortschreitende Prozeß der Spezialisierung unaufhaltsam. Oft bleibt ein kurzfristiger
ökonomischer Nutzen undeutlich. Mittel- und langfristig kann jedoch mit relativ
geringem Aufwand ein großer Nutzen erzielt werden. Es ist unabweisbar, daß die
Zukunft unserer Welt zunehmend bestimmt sein wird durch die
Auseinandersetzungen zwischen Ost und West. Daß hierbei den orientalistischen
Disziplinen eine große Bedeutung zufällt, liegt auf der Hand. Wie lange Zeit der
Westen den Osten durchdrungen und nicht selten dominiert hat, so ist nunmehr der
Orient längst vor unserer Haustür. Wider jeglichen so modischen wie obsoleten
Selbstbetrug: Dieser Prozeß ist unumkehrbar, allein sein Ausgang ist offen. Hier
sind die Wissenschaften vom Orient insgesamt gefordert, ihren Beitrag zu leisten.
Die schrecklichen terroristischen Ereignisse vom 11. September 2001 und die
publizistischen Reaktionen weisen in furchtbarer Deutlichkeit auf das Defizit der
gegenseitigen Verständnisbemühungen. Umfassende Anstrengungen sind hier
notwendig. Die Erforschung des gemeinsamen Erbes wie auch das respektvolle
Kennenlernen der jeweiligen kulturellen Systeme ist heute notwendiger denn je.
Einen kleinen Beitrag dazu zu leisten ist die Absicht dieser Reihe.

Gemäß diesem Programm ist die Reihe offen für alle sich an ein größeres Publikum
richtenden Beiträge aus den orientalistischen Disziplinen, ob eher historisch oder
gegenwartsbezogen. Gedacht ist an einführende, transdisziplinäre und innovative
Studien auf hohem akademischen Niveau. Dabei soll insbesondere der historischen
Dimension des Orients ein breiter Raum gewidmet sein. Geschichte und
Geschichtsschreibung nämlich sind unverzichtbare Elemente der Konstruktion
gesellschaftlicher Identitäten. Und es ist allein das aufklärerische Bemühen darum,
das den tagespolitischen Missbrauch von Geschichtsklitterung und
Geschichtsfälschung verhindern kann. Die Rettung der Kultur kann letztlich nur mit
Mitteln der Kultur erfolgen.

Der erste Band der Wiener Offenen Orientalistik ist das Werk einer japanischen
Orientalistin, Dr. Chikako Watanabe. Es beschäftigt sich unter kunsthistorisch-
archäologischen und philologischen Gesichtspunkten mit „Animal Symbolism in
Ancient Mesopotamia“. Die Bilder unserer Sprachen und Kulturen beruhen auf
einem langen Traditionsstrom, der sich in vielen Fällen bis in den Alten Orient
iv

zurückverfolgen läßt. Und obwohl sich die Autorin mit einer scheinbar so fern
liegenden Epoche des Alten Orients beschäftigt, ist ihr Thema durchaus auch von
einem unmittelbaren Gegenwartbezug: Die Macht des Bildes und das Bild der
Macht sind gerade in unseren so entscheidend visuell geprägten modernen
Gesellschaften von großer Brisanz. Ein solches Thema kann in einem einzelnen
Werke natürlich keinesfalls erschöpfend behandelt werden. Die Tatsache, daß in der
vorliegenden Studie dieses Thema von einer aus dem asiatischen Kulturkreis
stammenden Autorin behandelt wird, unterstreicht das Anliegen der vorliegenden
Reihe.

Im Zuge der fortschreitenden Spezialisierung überschreitet unvermeidlicher Weise


die Qualitätskontrolle im Hinblick auf das Programm der Wiener Offenen
Orientalistik die Kompetenz eines Einzelnen. Mit Dankbarkeit möchte ich deshalb
erwähnen, daß eine Reihe von Kollegen mir ihre Beratung für das weitere
Programm der Reihe zugesichert hat. In alphabetischer Reihenfolge handelt es sich
dabei um die Professorinnen und Professoren A. Ambros, E. Bleibtreu, H. Hunger,
M. Jursa, M. Köhbach, S. Procházka, G. Procházka-Eisl, C. Römer und H.
Satzinger.

Abschließend möchte ich der Hoffnung Ausdruck verleihen, daß unsere


gemeinsamen Anstrengungen den Dialog zwischen Wissenschaft und Öffentlichkeit
ebenso fördern, wie den zwischen West und Ost. Vielleicht greift dann auch die
Erkenntnis Raum, daß das politisch so populäre Postulat einer kurzfristigen
ökonomischen Vernutzung von Wissenschaft nicht nur wissenschaftsfeindlich,
sondern langfristig auch „ökonomisch“ unsinnig ist.

Wien
Der Herausgeber
v

Foreword

The title of this new series, “Wiener Offene Orientalistik”, indicates its aim: to open
up research in Oriental Studies to a wider public. There are numerous series of
specialised scholarly publications, but they are often rather difficult to digest. More
general studies, however, not seldom lack scholarly expertise, and are sometimes
misleading. Indeed, this is one of the reasons for the so-called crisis in the
humanities. Original research implies specialisation, but the need for an interface
between scholars and the public is growing. It is our conviction that there is a
demand for works that provide scholarly but readable accounts of current research.

The dreadful terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and their treatment in the press
display the regrettable misunderstanding between East and West. History and
Historiography are important for the creation of identity. To know about the past is
therefore a prerequisite for mutual understanding and a vision of our common
future. Cultural means must be used to defend culture against barbarism. The study
of the rich Eastern tradition may, in the end, also help to avert prejudice and
misunderstanding. Mutual knowledge creates mutual respect.

The editor is very pleased to introduce, as the first volume in the series “Wiener
Offene Orientalistik”, this work by Dr. Watanabe, a scholar from Japan who
combines extensive experience and knowledge of both Eastern and Western cultural
traditions. Her work is not only a traditional interdisciplinary study but a truly
cross-cultural one. The first impression may be that the imagery of the lion and the
bull in Ancient Mesopotamia is a rather remote subject. However, Dr. Watanabe’s
application of a contextual approach, based on pictorial as well as textual evidence,
has considerable relevance for our modern, visually oriented societies, where both
the power of the image and the image of power have great influence. It is frequently
the case that unfamiliar sources provide us with insights that lead to a better
understanding of ourselves.

It is to be hoped that this and future publications in the series “Wiener Offene
Orientalistik” will help to bring about greater knowledge and respect between East
and West.

The Editor
Vienna
Animal Symbolism in Mesopotamia

— A Contextual Approach —

Chikako E. Watanabe
CONTENTS

List of Abbreviations xi
Preface xiii
Introduction
§ 1. Objectives of this study 1
§ 2. Previous literature 10
§ 3. Methodology 14
§ 4. Metaphors and similes 16
§ 5. Symbols and divine attributes 22
§ 6. The origin of religious thought 24
§ 7. Myths and ritual 32
§ 8. Terminology 37
§ 9. Supernatural animals 39
Chapter I Animals used in Royal Contexts
I.1. The lion 42
I.2. The bull 57
I.3. The perception of kingship as reflected in animal references 65
Chapter II The Role of Animals in the Royal Hunt 69
II.1. The Assyrian royal bull hunt and the Gilgameß myth 72
II.2. The Assyrian royal lion hunt and the Ninurta myth 76
II.3. The nature and function of the royal hunt 83
Chapter III Animals used in Divine Contexts
III.1. Warlike qualities expressed by animals 89
III.2. Aspects of storm expressed by animals 93
III.3. Agricultural aspects expressed by the bull 99
III.4. Sexual fertility and fecundity expressed by animals 103
III.5. The visual image of animals evoking divine notions 107
Chapter IV Animals used in Architectural Contexts 111
IV.1. Visible animal statues at doorways 112
IV.1.1. The lion statues 112
IV.1.2. The bull statues 117
IV.2. Concealed animal statues at doorways: the dog figurines 119
IV.3. The function of animal statues at doorways 121
Chapter V Composite Animals: A Case Study
V.1. Anzu 126
V.1.1. Anzu as a faithful divine servant 127
V.1.2. Anzu as an enemy force 130
V.1.3. Anzu represented as the pharmakos 134
V.2. The Horned Lion Griffin 136
V.2.1. The Horned Lion Griffin associated with Ninurta 136
V.2.2. The Horned Lion Griffin attributed to other deities 138
x
Conclusion
§ 1. General remarks 142
§ 2. The perception of the ‘wild’ and the ‘domesticated’ 147
§ 3. The relationship between the ‘wild’ and the ‘civilised’ 150
§ 4. The relationship between ‘nature’ and humans 154
§ 5. The role of animals in religious thought operations 156
Appendix Map of Western Asia 163
Mesopotamian chronology 164
Bibliography 166
List of figures 175
Figures 179
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

A lexical series á A = nâqu, pub. Civil, MSL 14


ABAW Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften
ABL R.F. Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Letters
ACh. C. Virolleaud, L’Astrologie chaldéenne
AfO Archiv für Orientforschung
AKA E.A.W. Budge and L.W. King, The Annals of the Kings of Assyria
ANET J.B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts relating to the Old Testament
Angim epic Angim dimma, J.S. Cooper, The Return of Ninurta to Nippur (=AnOr 52)
AnOr Analecta Orientalia
AnSt Anatolian Studies
Antagal lexical series antagal = ßaqû, pub. M.T. Roth, MSL 17
AOAT Alter Orient und Altes Testament
ARM Archives royales de Mari (1-10 = TCL 22-31; 14, 18, 19, 21 = Textes cunéiformes de
Mari 1-3, 5)
Ash. R. Borger, Die Inschriften Asarhaddons (= AfO Beiheft 9)
BA Beiträge zur Assyriologie
BE Babylonian Expedition of the University of Pennsylvania, Series A: Cuneiform Texts
BHT S. Smith, Babylonian Historical Texts
BiOr Bibliotheca Orientalis
BM tablets in the collections of the British Museum
Borger Esarh. R. Borger, Die Inschriften Asarhaddons (= AfO Beiheft 9)
BPP S.H. Langdon, Babylonian Penitential Psalms
BSOAS Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies
CAD The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
Cagni Erra L. Cagni, L’epopea di Erra
CH R.F. Harper, The Code of Hammurabi
CT Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets
Découvertes E. de Sarzec, Découvertes en Chaldée
Diri lexical series diri DIR siåku = ( w) atru
EA J.A. Knudtzon, Die El-Amarna-Tafeln (= VAB 2)
ED Early Dynastic
Garelli Gilg. P. Garelli, Gilgameß et sa légende. Etudes recueillies par Paul Garelli à l’occasion de
la VII e Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale
Gilg. Gilgameß epic, cited from Thompson Gilg.
GM •åmi‘at Mawπil
Grayson ARI A.K. Grayson, Assyrian Royal Inscriptions
IM tablets in the collections of the Iraq Museum, Baghdad
Iraq Iraq (London 1934ff.)
JCS Journal of Cuneiform Studies
JNES Journal of Near Eastern Studies
K tablets in the Kouyunjik collection of the British Museum
KAH Keilschrifttexte aus Assur historischen Inhalts
KAR Keilschrifttexte aus Assur religiösen Inhalts
KAV Keilschrifttexte aus Assur verschiedenen Inhalts
KBo Keilschrifttexte aus Boghazköi
Köcher BAM F. Köcher, Die babylonisch-assyrische Medizin in Texten und Untersuchungen
LB Late Babylonian
LKA E. Ebeling, Literarische Keilschrifttexte aus Assur
Lugale epic Lugale u melambi nergal, cited from A. Falkenstein
MA Middle Assyrian
MAD Materials for the Assyrian Dictionary
MAM A. Parrot, Mission archéologique de Mari
MB Middle Babylonian
xii Abbreviations

MDP Mémoires de la Délégation en Perse


MNS Å. Sjöberg, Der Mondgott Nanna-Suen
MSL B. Landsberger, et al. Materialien zum sumerischen Lexikon
MVAG Mitteilungen der Vorderasiatisch-Aegyptischen Gesellschaft
NA Neo-Assyrian
NABU Nouvelles Assyriologiques Brèves et Utilitaires
NB Neo-Babylonian
OA Old Assyrian
OB Old Babylonian
OIP Oriental Institute Publications
OLZ Orientalistische Literaturzeitung
Or. Orientalia
Or NS Orientalia Nova Series (= Or.)
Parpola LAS S. Parpola, Letters from Assyrian Scholars (= AOAT 5)
PKG 18 W. Orthmann, Der alte Orient, Propyläen Kunstgeschichte 18 (1985 edition)
PSD The Sumerian Dictionary of the University of Pennsylvania Museum
R H. Rawlinson, The cuneiform Inscriptions of Western Asia, 1-5
RA Revue d’assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale
RAcc F. Thureau-Dangin, Rituels accadiens
RlA Reallexikon der Assyriologie und Vorderasiatischen Archäologie
Rm tablets in the collections of the British Museum (Rassam)
SAA State Archives of Assyria
SAACT State Archives of Assyria Cuneiform Texts
SAA Gilg. S. Parpola, The Standard Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh (= SAACT 1)
SB Standard Babylonian
SBH G.A. Reisner, Sumerisch-babylonische Hymnen nach Thontafeln griechischer Zeit
ÍL A. Deimel, Íumerisches Lexikon
SLT E. Chiera, Sumerian Lexical Texts (= OIP 11)
Streck Asb. M. Streck, Assurbanipal (= VAB 7)
STT O.R. Gurney, J.J. Finkelstein, and P. Hulin, The Sultantepe Tablets
STVC E. Chiera, Sumerian Texts of Varied Contents (= OIP 16)
Sumer Sumer. Journal of Archaeology and History in Iraq
Syria Syria. Revue d’art oriental et d’archéologie
TCL Textes cunéiformes du Louvre
Thompson Esarh. R.C. Thompson, The Prisms of Esarhaddon and of Ashurbanipal
Thompson Gilg. R.C. Thompson, The Epic of Gilgamesh
UET Ur Excavations. Texts
Ugaritica Ugaritica. Mission de Ras Shamra
Unger Babylon E. Unger, Babylon, die heilige Stadt nach der Beschreibung der Babylonier
Unger Reliefstele E. Unger, Reliefstele Adadniraris III aus Saba’a und Semiramis
Ur III the Third Dynasty of Ur
VAB Vorderasiatische Bibliothek
VS Vorderasiatische Schriftdenkmäler der Königlichen Museen zu Berlin
Winckler Sar. H. Winckler, Die Keilschrifttexte Sargons
WO Die Welt des Orients
WVDOG Wissenschaftliche Veröffentlichungen der Deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft
WZKM Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes
YOS Yale Oriental Series, Babylonian Texts
ZA Zeitschrift für Assyriologie und verwandte Gebiete bzw. und Vorderasiatische
Archäologie
ZANF Zeitschrift für Assyriologie, Neue Folge
PREFACE

This study was originally a thesis for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy submitted to the
University of Cambridge in 1998. The research presented here is based on information
derived from published cuneiform texts, excavation reports, and artefacts from Mesopotamia.
Explanations of the perceptions and symbolism identified are based on the application of
theories and parallels in the disciplines of anthropology, art history, archaeology, and the
philosophy of language.
The original motivation for my interest in Assyriology was provided by the Assyrian
royal lion hunt represented on the reliefs excavated at Nineveh, by which I had been deeply
impressed while working for my first degree, in the history of art. I was hoping to work on
this theme, using both textual and art-historical evidence. In the summer of 1990, I visited
Dr Joan Oates and Professor J.N. Postgate in Cambridge in order to discuss the PhD topic I
had proposed (‘Hunting in Mesopotamia’), but they were concerned that the subject was too
limited. They suggested that instead I should deal with a broader theme of ‘animal
symbolism’, incorporating the royal hunt.
I have been very fortunate to have such an interesting field of research, but one of the
greatest difficulties I faced concerned the theoretical framework to be applied to the
symbolism of Mesopotamian culture. I was aware that the treatment of symbolic phenomena
on a superficial level did not explain the function of symbolism. Another challenge was to
find a way of elucidating the internal mechanism of symbolism that did not impose the
cultural values and judgements of our own time and place. Of course, these difficulties are
not limited to the study of ancient cultures; any serious work on symbolism must confront
them. My work gradually focused on how it was possible to avoid subjective interpretation
of Mesopotamian culture in the form of those documents and material objects that are
available to us from excavation.
Initially, I had to concentrate on collecting and sorting out a vast quantity of material,
including fragmented texts in ancient Mesopotamian languages that presented many
difficulties of interpretation. Furthermore, most of the published work on this material was
in languages other than my own. The way in which each language conveys ideas and
associations is not only technically different but also reflects concepts that arise from the
writer’s own wider cultural context. In any one language, the semantic context of a word
may differ from that of the word used to represent it in another language. This ‘semantic
gap’ and its origin had to be confronted in several cultural contexts.
Every cloud has a silver lining, however. In the context of research that has been
carried out mainly by Western scholars, my different, non-Western, culture not only made
me more aware of these semantic gaps — how they occur and what they are — but also
xiv
freed me from a biblically influenced view of Mesopotamia. It is, of course, virtually
impossible to detach oneself entirely from one’s native cultural perceptions when trying to
understand another culture so far removed from one’s own, but it was useful that I had to be
aware of this particular problem from the beginning. It led me to look for some neutral
position from which I could interpret the cultural phenomena of Mesopotamia.
The breakthrough came when I encountered the theory of metaphor developed by
Max Black. His approach to the mechanism of metaphor seemed to be ideal for my
purposes, since it aims to interpret the function of associative operations primarily in its
internal relationship, rather than imposing something derived externally. In addition, his
approach shares an essential feature with that promoted by Ian Hodder in the field of
archaeology: the necessity of interpreting the meanings of objects from their original
contexts. The human mind has a remarkably large and flexible capacity for operating ideas,
and each culture has a long history of passing on, from one generation to the next, its
heritage of associated notions pooled in common knowledge peculiar to each community. It
is this cultural heritage that provides the basis for signifying operations. In this study, in
order to clarify the role of common knowledge in Mesopotamian societies I have examined
both the way in which each figurative expression occurs in relation to a particular context,
and how that expression functions differently in Sumerian and Akkadian.

I should like to express my sincere thanks to Dr Joan Oates, who supervised my research at


Cambridge. Without her support and encouragement, I would never have been able to
complete this study. She has also played an important part in transforming my cultural
perceptions: it was a great surprise to be told that I should ‘enjoy’ my academic work.
‘Suffering’ and ‘sacrifice’ in order to devote oneself to something ‘more important’ are
widely accepted in traditional Japanese society (and in some other Asian societies), although
the entirely different behaviour of my own students implies that this perception is changing.
Dr Oates has given me a more positive view of life. I would also like to express my special
gratitude to Professor Irene Winter, who provided me with much-valued advice and
encouragement when I was having difficulty establishing the direction my work should take.
Her words lightened my way in the darkness, and her support was a turning-point in my
research. My thanks are also due to Professor Gebhard Selz, who not only made me most
welcome at the Oriental Institute of the University of Vienna, where I spent a sabbatical year
in 1999-2000, but also gave me the opportunity of publishing this study. I have greatly
benefited from his support and scholarship in the revision of my work. My thanks are also
due to Professor W.G. Lambert, under whom I studied Assyriology at the University of
Birmingham between 1987 and 1990. While I was pursuing the MA course there, he once
told me that it was not advisable to change the topic of one’s research; I remembered his
wise advice when I was faced with difficulties while working for my PhD and was
xv
encouraged to persevere. I would particularly like to thank Ms Rosemary Graham, who
edited the entire text and revised my English; I am very grateful for her unfailing support
and encouragement. Mrs Louise Gibbons too devoted many hours to reading through earlier
drafts of my work and improving my English. Ms Helen McDonald and
Ms Dominique Ruhlmann were also called upon for help in that connection. They have all
been a constant source of support and I owe them a considerable debt of gratitude.
Dr Graham Cunningham helped me greatly by generously granting me access to his
manuscript for Religion and magic: approaches and theories (Edinburgh 1999) before it was
published. Dr Günter Houdek provided me with great support and encouragement
throughout the time of preparation of this publication; he also helped me with all the
technical requirements, i.e., the digitisation of the figures and the design of their layout, the
arrangement of the cover, and the format for the entire document in accordance with the
printer's requirements. Dr Dominique Collon and Dr John Curtis helped me in seeking
permission from the Trustees of the British Museum to reproduce images of the objects
owned by them. Professor J.N. Postgate provided scholarly advice and comments in the
course of my research. Dr Tina Breckwoldt and Dr Kai Kaniuth (fellow students at
Cambridge) helped me with references in German. Dr F.A.M. Wiggermann,
Professor R.M. Boehmer, Dr B. Salje, and Dr A.R. George provided me with helpful
information and references. I would also like to express my special gratitude to Trinity
College, Cambridge, and to my College tutor, Dr C.T. Morley, for their support over several
years. The research was supported financially by the Jardine Foundation, the Canon
Foundation, the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, the BFWG Charitable Foundation, and
Trinity College, Cambridge. The research fund of the Osaka Gakuin University has
subsidised the cost of publication.

NOTE
Both Sumerian transliterations (written in bold) and Akkadian transliterations and
transcriptions (written in italic) follow what is published; I have, however, corrected what
appear to be printing errors. I have not attempted to standardise the transcription of
Sumerian but have generally adopted the practice of the scholars from whom the passage is
quoted. Sumerian translations follow what is published; Akkadian texts have been
translated by the author, unless indicated otherwise. Abbreviations used in the text and
footnotes follow those given in the Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the
University of Chicago (Chicago, 1956- ), and the Reallexikon der Assyriologie und
vorderasiatischen Archäologie (Berlin/Leipzig, 1928- ).
INTRODUCTION

§ 1. Objectives of this study

The aim of this study is to examine how animals are used as ‘symbols’ in Mesopotamian
culture and to focus on what is intended by referring to animals in context. The names of
animals appear in texts in order to describe the specific nature or characteristics of something
other than the animals themselves. In art, animals are represented in various scenes where
the intention may be to inspire notions other than the mere presence of the animals. In both
cases, the reasons for applying animals to the particular contexts are not made explicit, and
often no clue is provided to explain their symbolic relationships. What is observed is the
frequent occurrence of certain animals in particular contexts. This study focuses on animals
that occur regularly in either texts or art, and aims to bring such evidence together to
investigate the symbolic values conveyed by animals in specific contexts.
There were, of course, innumerable species in ancient Mesopotamia. Representations
of them and textual references to them are numerous. It has to be noted, however, that the
material recorded in texts and art has been excavated and made available to us by mere
chance — and no single site will give a well-balanced picture. A great deal of material either
remains to be excavated or is still unpublished. This means that both the written and the
archaeological sources presently available to us are too ‘partial’ to give a general picture of
Mesopotamia, so we have to work with this limited range of sources in an attempt to deduce
something which makes sense to us. There is always the possibility that new evidence will
require us to correct views that were based on the material previously available. Bearing in
mind the unbalanced nature of the source material, other factors must also be noted. First,
the material comes from all over Mesopotamia, where each city had its own tradition.
Secondly, it covers a time span ranging over millennia. Thirdly, the population of the region
was far from homogeneous and was subject to constant changes as a result of the political
struggles and climatic changes that brought about extensive immigration from adjacent areas.
Roughly speaking, a Sumerian-speaking population played the major political role in
southern Mesopotamia in the third millennium, except for the period ca. 2350-2230 B.C.
when the Akkadian empire seized power. At the end of the third millennium and the
beginning of the second, a Semitic-speaking population — typically the Amorites migrating
from the Syrian Jazirah — flowed into the region, and they were the dominant power in
Mesopotamia in the second and first millennia. Sumerian is a non-Semitic language of
uncertain type. Akkadian is a Semitic language and was used in general in Mesopotamia in
2 Introduction

historical times after ca. 2000 B.C. It is divided into two dialects: Babylonian and Assyrian.
Certain features can be deduced from Sumerian culture which distinguish it from Semitic
culture. For example, Sumerian art may be said to be characterised by stylised
representations, with the emphasis on symmetrical composition, whereas Semitic art prefers
naturalistic representations. However, it becomes difficult to distinguish clearly between the
two cultures towards the end of the third millennium as the immigrant Semitic-speaking
population integrated into Sumerian society. Even during the third millennium, Semitic
people were already living alongside the Sumerian population in north Babylonia. The
geographical, chronological, and ethnic background of the material is thus extremely complex
and diverse in historical times.
It is difficult to establish whether the same statement or design occurring in different
periods was intended to convey the same message, or whether the same message would have
been conveyed by different statements or designs from a different ethnic background and
period. Moreover, the nature and purpose of the available sources need to be considered in
the context of their original function. This raises questions of whether the same animal
mentioned in a royal inscription and a ritual text, for example, might convey different
messages; whether an animal represented on a cylinder seal might be regarded as conveying
a different message from the same animal depicted in relief. There is certainly a case to be
made that the original nature and function of the material create a framework which can
influence the nature of these messages. However, there is no guarantee that the same
references, in the same category of material, from the same period and from the same area,
would convey the same messages. It is difficult to know how sources should be selected in
order to clarify inexplicit messages within a limited range of available sources. It is,
however, important to focus on a particular category of material to be given priority; any
material not belonging to that category should be treated with an appropriate reference to its
nature and function, as necessary.
In the case of the present study, I have chosen to focus on: 1) a certain class of
evidence, and 2) certain animal species occurring in a particular category of contexts. First,
priority is given to sources of a ‘public’ rather than ‘private’ nature, occurring in both textual
and artistic evidence. This is because the category of ‘contexts’ for the use of animals is
clearly of an official nature: i.e., royalty, divinity, and public architecture. A great deal of the
evidence available is inevitably of an official character. This is especially true in the case of
most of the written sources, since literacy was limited exclusively to a certain class of people
— e.g., scribes, palace officials, and priests — whose official status in society is reflected in
the nature of the texts they produced. Religious texts too cannot escape inclusion in this
‘public’ category. The common people perhaps practised their religion in places like the
ritual niche at home and the street-corner shrine, and it may have been a private kind of
Objectives 3
religion, different from that practised at the official city temple. These people, however, were
illiterate, and scribes would rarely have made a record of matters concerning the lower
classes. Moreover, the majority of textual sources come from archives of an official nature,
the collection of which inevitably reflected public interests. The textual sources used in this
study are, therefore, literary texts of a public nature: i.e., royal inscriptions, myths, religious
and cultic texts, royal correspondence, and personal names in both Sumerian and Akkadian.
Personal names are of a public nature in that their function is to identify individuals, but in
private life those individuals might have used different names from those recorded in
documents, such as a shortened name or a ‘nickname’.
In the case of artistic materials, typical examples of a public nature are those
conveying official messages and political propaganda: e.g., royal stelae and bas-reliefs that
once decorated the walls of the public sector of the Assyrian palace. There is a so-called
‘private’ sector of the palace; the term refers to areas that are believed to have been for the
ruler’s private use. During the later Neo-Assyrian period interior decoration frequently took
the form of wall reliefs, and reliefs have also been excavated from these ‘private’ sectors of
the palace. It is arguable whether palace reliefs from these areas should be regarded as
‘private’ or not. Although individual activities which took place there might have been
‘private’, the building as a whole was constructed as public architecture. The wall reliefs,
wherever they are in the palace, remain within this framework as part of the public building.
Cylinder seals, on the other hand, seem to have both a public and a private function, as they
are a form of personal identification. When a seal is used as a kind of ‘ornament’ — for
example, hung from a person’s neck on string which pierces the cylinder — it can be
regarded as ‘private’. However, once a seal is pressed against the surface of a tablet or bulla,
its impression authenticates a particular piece of property or witnesses an official transaction,
so that its nature is undoubtedly ‘public’. Pots have a private character when they are used in
a domestic context. There are, however, different kinds of pots which are elaborately
decorated or made of precious material. These pots are likely to have served special
functions, being used in a ritual at the temple or exhibited in a public building as part of the
interior decoration, creating a public framework within which the object must be interpreted.
The same category of object may therefore have a dual aspect, both private and public,
depending on the context in which it was used. The art discussed in this study is
predominantly that of a public nature, since this study examines the use of animals that occur
in public contexts.
The animal species discussed here were selected because they ‘meant a lot’ to
Mesopotamian people. In addition, it was desirable that they occurred in a variety of
contexts, so that they would serve as good examples of how animals functioned as
‘symbols’ in those different contexts. Wolfgang Heimpel carried out extensive research on
4 Introduction

animal imagery in Sumerian literary texts, and he collected animal metaphors in Tierbilder in
der sumerischen Literatur (1968). It is striking how many pages of his book are devoted to
metaphors of the bovine (pp. 75-214) and the leonine (pp. 280-344) animals. These two
animals occupy nearly half (46%) of the book, which lists 105 different Sumerian animal
names. The author seems to have collected examples of animal metaphors without giving
any priority to particular animal species. The Sumerian sources are, in general, older than the
Akkadian sources, and the striking number of bovine and leonine animal metaphors found in
Sumerian literary texts should not be underestimated. Moreover, these two animals are
credited with a particular property: “fierceness”, b àn.da in Sumerian and ekdu in Akkadian,
adjectives which occur commonly in connection with the lion and the bull. The Sumerian
bàn.da, however, is not used exclusively with reference to these two animals; there are two
examples in which a dog (uur) and gazelle(?) (uu3.ba.zu) are described with this adjective in
order to stress their ‘wild’ nature.1 Apart from meaning ‘wild’, the word is also translated as
‘young’, ‘impetuous’, and ‘aggressive’. In Akkadian the quality of ekdu is attributed to
certain supernatural animals as well as to the bull and the lion. For example, a dragon
(ußumgallu) and an ∑mu-demon (∑mu) are described as “fierce”.2 However, the bull and the
lion are the major animals credited with this property; these two are apparently the only
examples of real animals found in references given in CAD (The Assyrian Dictionary of the
Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago). The characteristic of ‘fierceness’ is an
important factor for this study, since this property is typically attributed to the king, particular
deities, gate figures, and enemies (the last only in Akkadian), which might shed light on the
use of animals in the contexts of royalty, divinity, and public architecture. I intend, therefore,
to focus mainly on these two kinds of animal in Chapters I-IV. In Chapter IV, although the
main discussion still focuses on these two animals, a study of the ‘dog’ figurine is included
in order to elucidate the function of concealed animal figures, and whether it is different from
that of exposed animals (i.e., the bull and the lion figures) at the entrance of a public building.
The theme of chapter V is not real animals but composite ones: two kinds of such animal,
Anzu and the Horned Lion Griffin, are examined as a case study.
Humans signify animals by projecting various ideas and emotions onto them. The
meanings given to animals may be formed through two different phases of perceptions
arising from the experience of encountering animals: i.e., functional or materialistic
meanings and symbolic ones. Archaeologists have tried to distinguish functional and
technological meanings from those belonging to the symbolic realm, but it is difficult to
separate the two types. Animals, especially domesticated animals, would have been
perceived with a pragmatic mind: that is to say, by observing how they function in relation

1 See PSD, ‘B’, 85-86, ban3 -da, 4.2.


2 See CAD, ‘E’, 62-63, ekdu a).
Objectives 5
to human activities in the social and economic spheres (e.g., in agriculture, animal husbandry,
and for transport). Wild animals, on the other hand, may have been regarded as prey or as a
threat, depending on their function in human life. The symbolic ideas conveyed by animals
are determined by these pragmatic functions as well as by those ‘further associations’
resulting from more abstract thought. To reconstruct the meanings that were intended to be
conveyed by animals as symbolic agents is not an easy task, since our interpretation of the
past inevitably reflects our own cultural and social background. Hodder rightly pointed out
this risk and suggested that there is a need to be self-critical in the imposition of meanings
when we read the archaeological record as a ‘text’.3 In other words, in ancient Mesopotamia
a set of shared beliefs, from which associated implications are readily evoked by referring to
a particular symbolic agent, may have differed slightly or greatly from what we take for
granted. The best way to interpret meanings belonging to the past is to pay close attention to
the particular contexts in which symbolic agents occur. A method of analysis applied to a
study of the European Neolithic by Hodder in The Domestication of Europe: Structure and
Contingency in Neolithic Societies (1990) provides an ideal model for our current objectives.
Hodder defines ‘contextual’ analysis as an attempt to ‘read’ or interpret the evidence
primarily in terms of its internal relations rather than in terms of outside knowledge. In
particular, emphasis is placed on reading internal symbolic relations rather than interpreting
the evidence on the basis of externally derived concepts of rationality.4 For the purpose of
the current study, it is important that animals occurring in figurative statements or
iconographical representations should be ‘read’ within their original contexts by examining
their internal relationships with other ideas or concepts expressed within the same contextual
framework.
The examination of the cultural meaning of animals may also reveal how symbolic
ideas relate to one another, as well as how such systems of symbolic ideas are interrelated
within social and cultural systems. Cultural meanings attributed to animals inevitably reflect
the way in which humans relate themselves to the external world. Like humans, animals
have their lives from birth to death and, unlike plants, they move about and react as a sign of
life. For example, they run, eat, drink, bark, roar, fight, mate, reproduce, and kill others.
Each facet of animal behaviour has its parallel in that of humans. However, many animals
possess other properties that distinguish them from humans. Animals are not like ‘us’; they
are ‘the other’, with whom humans interact under different circumstances: humans hunt and
domesticate animals as well as being threatened and attacked by them. Through such diverse
experiences, humans project what they think and feel about animals without receiving any
corrections or criticism from the animals. Thus the communication between humans and

3 Hodder 1986, 125.


4 Hodder 1990, 20-21.
6 Introduction

animals is not mutual but chiefly one-way. In this sense, the theory of ‘alterity’
demonstrated by Said in his discourse on Orientalism5 may be applied to animals in order to
explain their function in human thought. Said analysed the underlying structure of
Orientalism, in which the concept of ‘the Orient’ is considered to have been formed through
the eyes of ‘the Occident’, with political and cultural factors interacting as a reflection of the
power structure. However, the Orient is endowed with a sense of ‘alterity’ which barbarises
and negativises it; at the same time, it is glamorised and envied.
An animal’s place as ‘alterity’ encourages humans to project their own evaluation and
admiration of features and qualities observed in the human world upon the animals which
display them. Therefore, the examination of animal symbolism provides keys with which to
interpret humans’ perception of the world around them, as well as their way of
understanding themselves and their own lives. The cultural differences observed in the
perception of the universe are represented in the different symbolic systems of each culture.
It has been observed in many societies that social communities are conceptually associated
with natural objects, and commonly with animals. This is not only because animals are good
to eat but also because they are ‘good to think’, and not only because they can carry a load on
their backs or work as draught animals but also because they can convey human principles.6
Thus animals function as symbols, reflecting ideas and qualities perceived by humans and
projected onto them. This study aims to examine how the Mesopotamians related themselves
to animals and to the external world by observing the patterns of the symbolic ideas
conveyed by animals. These ideas are further investigated to reveal the way in which the
Mesopotamians perceived and comprehended the relationships between their own society
and the external world in terms of the ‘domesticated’ and the ‘wild’ as opposed concepts.
This work is roughly divided into four major contexts in which the symbolic role of
animals is examined: royal, royal hunt, divine, and architectural. Chapters I-IV are devoted
to the discussion of ‘real animals’, while Chapter V deals with composite animals. The
examination of the use of animals in royal contexts, in Chapter I, aims to clarify what is
intended and emphasised by the use of animal metaphors applied to the king. The intention
is also to reveal Mesopotamian perceptions of society and the place of the king by examining
the concept of kingship reflected in animal metaphors. The special role of the king in the
royal hunt is discussed in Chapter II, which has two major aims. One is to reveal the hidden
structure of its interpretation in cultic and mythological contexts; the other is to investigate
the purpose of the hunt from the sacrificial point of view in order to attempt to understand the
social and psychological functions of such activity. The use of animals in divine contexts is
examined in Chapter III, in which the ideas evoked by animal metaphors are related to other

5 Said 1978.
6 Lévi-Strauss 1963, 99.
Objectives 7
imagery and ideas in order to construct a picture of a deity. The reason and motivation for
selecting particular animals for association with a particular divine function have not been
much discussed in the field of Assyriology. This study aims to establish which aspects of
animals are emphasised in relation to particular divine features. In this context, a discussion
of composite animals, in Chapter V, is indispensable, for they are the most revealing
examples of animal symbolism. My approach in examining the symbolic role of such
supernatural creatures is basically no different from that applied to real animals in this study.
A composite animal is a product of human thought operations: an imaginary creature
whose body parts derive from two or more animals. Each body part reflects an idea arising
from that animal’s nature and perceived behaviour; different parts are combined to form a
new animal. The aim is to examine how a composite animal is used to express the idea of
complex divine functions, in which each body part may be intended to convey a different
symbolic idea as a separate component incorporated into the overall idea of a deity.
Numerous kinds of composite animal are represented in Mesopotamian texts and art: e.g.,
bull-man, lion-humanoid, scorpion-man, lion-centaur, snake-dragon, goat-fish, and various
types of lion-dragon. Extensive studies on composite animals have been published by
scholars such as Wiggermann7 and Green.8 Because it is not the major purpose of this study
to deal with all types of such creatures but to provide a case study, I should like to focus on
only two types of composite animal, Imdugud/Anzu and the ‘Horned Lion Griffin’, both
associated with the god Ninurta. The reason for selecting Imdugud/Anzu is that the animal
has been represented both in texts and in art over two millennia, from the third to the first
millennium B.C., during which it might be possible to observe changes in the messages
conveyed by the same animal. The ‘Horned Lion Griffin’, on the other hand, is likely to
have developed from the original divine association of Imdugud/Anzu mainly in the first
millennium B.C. The study of these animals provides a model for the way in which the
characteristics of two or more animals are integrated into one animal body, as a result of
which multiple divine aspects, perceived in one deity, are effectively conveyed by a single
symbolic animal.
Chapter IV examines animals used in architectural contexts — so-called ‘protective’
or ‘guardian’ figures standing at doorways and gateways, or buried under them. Both
natural and composite animals occur in this context. Those discussed in this study are,
however, limited to the category of ‘real’ animals for the same reason given above for the
discussion of composite animals. The animal figures are divided into two categories: those
exposed and those concealed. The former category comprises the lion and the bull statues,
and the latter comprises with dog figurines buried under doorways.

7 Wiggermann 1992.
8 Baghdader Mitteilungen 17, 141-254; Iraq 45, 87-96; ibid., 47, 75-82; ibid., 48, 25-30; ibid., 50, 167-168.
8 Introduction

Why are animals used extensively as symbols? This is observed not only in ancient
cultures but also in most cultures throughout history. One particular function of animal
symbols as used in ancient cultures may have been to convey abstract concepts for which
there was as yet no specific terminology. Concepts are not visible; they are perceived or
created in order to articulate the underlying structure of particular properties in the process of
definition. Because such concepts arise from human experiences of phenomena and the
handling of objects that are concrete and material, abstract ideas are not entirely separated
from the concrete entities in which they are embodied. These two aspects are, to some
extent, complementary. Some specific nature or character of the symbolic agents was
perceived as appropriate for conveying particular abstract ideas, and the ideas themselves
were conceived and projected onto symbols. Interaction between an abstract idea and a
concrete aspect of the agent, which derives from the complementary nature of the two, forms
an essential part of the mechanism of symbolic associations. Selection of an agent for
conveying some specific idea related to the realm of religion must have been made as a result
of the human experience of confronting various awe-inspiring phenomena that led humans to
believe in the existence of supernatural forces or spiritual beings. Ideas about these invisible
entities were projected onto specific objects in the real world. Once a symbolic link had been
formed and established between an object and an unexpressed thought, humans could refer
to the thought by using these symbols; symbols then became available for other operations
in thought processes. Animals may have been particularly chosen to convey emotions
evoked by awe-inspiring phenomena, because animals’ physical abilities surpass those of
humans, e.g., in running, sensing, attacking, flying, and seeing in the dark — abilities which
are not only admired but also feared for their potential to threaten human life. Such ‘awe’ is
also experienced when humans face natural phenomena that are beyond their control: e.g.,
death, storms, earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters. It is the psychological
reaction arising from the sense of ‘awe’ that associates with animals the supernatural forces
believed to lie behind such awe-inspiring phenomena.
Culture as a whole can be regarded as a total system of meanings and symbols, in
which a system of thought operations is not only organised in the individual mind but shared
within the community. Max Black, in his study of metaphor, calls this ‘the system of
associated commonplaces’,9 and Hodder refers to such concepts as ‘norms’.10 Systems are
formed through the operation of various patterns of thought processes. In ancient culture,
the evidence for these systems takes the form of archaeological material and written
documents. The way in which symbols are operated reflects collective social cognition:
symbols are a cultural product of the community. Seeing culture as a system of meanings

9 M. Black 1962, 38-47.


10 Hodder 1986, 9.
Objectives 9
reveals how the matter of reality is socially defined, and this definition is transmitted to and
inherited by any new member of the society. Gregory called this system ‘internal models of
reality’, referring to the knowledge of the world stored in someone’s brain, by which various
incoming information is processed and interpreted.11 Hodder argued that how we think
about cognition, symbols, and meaning has often changed through time, depending on wider
social contexts.12 Not only cultural elements, however, give rise to symbolic systems. There
are also cross-cultural or universal elements which may be imposed by biological factors.
The universal element is highlighted by Hinde in his observation of snake phobias: despite
the fact that the symbolism of the snake differs greatly, depending on the cultural context,
snake phobia is observed universally and may be linked with an underlying predisposition to
act in a certain way.13

11 Gregory 1970, 73-80.


12 Hodder 1993, 253-257.
13 Hinde 1991, 583-608.
10 Introduction

§ 2. Previous Literature

In the field of Assyriology there has been no systematic study of animal symbolism that
examines the mechanism and special features of the symbolic statements and representations
occurring in Mesopotamian culture. It is a project that covers large areas and involves many
difficulties. This study, though it focuses on only some aspects of animal symbolism, is the
first one that attempts to clarify features peculiar to Mesopotamia by examining the way in
which animals are operated as symbolic agents in Mesopotamian verbal and visual
expressions. Scholars have, however, published studies on particular themes. Each of these
works should be regarded as pioneering and they have had considerable influence on
scholarship in this field, contributing greatly to our knowledge of Mesopotamian culture.
In 1939, Van Buren published The Fauna of Ancient Mesopotamia as represented in
Art, which discussed forty-eight animal species. These animals include snakes, fish, and
scorpions. Because the main purpose of her study was to examine how often and in what
manner animals are represented in Mesopotamian art, there is no discussion of their
significance. In 1945 the same author published another work on Mesopotamian divine
symbols: Symbols of the Gods in Mesopotamian Art, in which some animals represented in
art are discussed in relation to gods. These are: 1) three kinds of bird, 2) the bull, 3) the cow
and calf, 4) the horse, 5) the lion, and 6) the serpents. In this work Van Buren collected
particular iconographical representations of animals, such as ‘bull on altar’ and ‘serpents
entwined’, and combined them with textual references to animals associated with deities in
order to identify each animal representation with a particular god. As her work was
undertaken during the Second World War, the range of evidence collected, especially the
textual evidence, is rather limited, for the author did not have ready access to books. The
work stands out nevertheless as the only overall study dealing with the wide range of divine
notions represented in art. However, Van Buren did not regard the particular contexts in
which animals are referred to in association with deities as of much importance. Rather, she
appears to have believed that an animal represents one deity, regardless of the context. Her
approach draws attention to the difficulty of how to deal with the symbolic aspects of
particular animals, such as the lion and the wild bull, which occur frequently as metaphors
associated with several deities. The author may have been aware of the problem, because
animal divine symbols are discussed within a limited range of examples, without any attempt
at a systematic survey. Van Buren adopted ‘what is said in texts’, faithfully accepting the
statement at face value; however, ‘what is not (explicitly) said’ is ignored. This resulted in
the neglect of some aspects of the symbolic role played by animals in their association with
deities, since metaphors are intended to refer to particular implications evoked by the
statements, and such aspects are normally not stated explicitly.
Previous literature 11
Between 1960 and 1966, Landsberger published The Fauna of Ancient
Mesopotamia, in the series Materialien zum sumerischen Lexikon 8/1 and 8/2, as well as a
series of articles, ‘Einige unerkannt gebliebene oder verkannte Nomina des Akkadischen’,14
in which the Sumerian and Akkadian vocabulary for the names of animals is examined on
the basis of the animal sections of the Sumerian-Akkadian lexical list u r a =≈ubullu. His
study provides the fundamental link between the ancient terminology and the animal species
identified by name, and it has been of great assistance to other studies that deal with ancient
animal names as a secure basis for identification.
In 1968, Heimpel published his systematic study on the imagery of animals in
Sumerian literature, Tierbilder in der sumerischen Literatur (mentioned above). The purpose
of this work was to collect examples in which animals are referred to as metaphors and
similes. Phrases containing a reference to animals are quoted, followed by translations and
lexical discussions, which are listed alphabetically under the German translations of the
Sumerian animal names. These phrases, under the same headword, are arranged according
to the aspect emphasised, such as the ‘horns’, the ‘raised head’, ‘butting’, and the ‘power’ of
the animal. Although Heimpel discussed particular phrases from a lexical point of view, his
interpretation of the meaning is not presented consistently in the book. Moreover, although
the author’s interpretation of each phrase in relation to its context may be reflected in the way
he categorised it, these ideas are not stated explicitly.
In 1973, Brown submitted a doctoral thesis entitled Symbolic Lions: A Study in
Ancient Mesopotamian Art and Literature , to the Department of Classics, Harvard
University. The author had collected lion metaphors occurring especially in Sumerian
literature, and attempted to interpret the symbolic meanings conveyed by the animal. She
explained symbolic aspects of the lion in terms of the ‘numinous’, by providing textual
evidence that the animal is regarded as a source of n í (“awesome glow”) and as a recipient of
m e . l á m (“aura”). Much of the discussion concerned the lion’s associations with the god
Ninurta/Ningirsu and the goddess Inanna, in which properties observed in the loud noise of
thunder, in destruction, and in the luxuriance of plant life, were emphasised in order to
explain the animal’s association with deities who were responsible for these phenomena.
Another focus of her study was the animal’s association with the Sumerian temple. Inanna
Temple in Akkad, for example, was named “Lion charging a wild bull”, which was
interpreted as the goddess Inanna attacking the rebellious country. Lion metaphors
associated with the temple in Sumerian literature were regarded as identical with the real
lions. Her thesis was the first research to focus on the use of an animal from a symbolic
point of view, and it is greatly to be regretted that the work was never published. The
amount of evidence collected in the thesis, and the way in which the author focused on the

14 WZKM 56, 109-29; WZKM 57, 1-21; WO 3, 48-79 and 246-268.


12 Introduction

particular properties that the animal and what it symbolises were perceived to have in
common, deserve special credit. On the other hand, her interpretation of metaphors creates a
serious problem. The author accepted at their face value Sumerian figurative statements in
which the animal is referred to in order to describe particular features of the temple, leading
to the conclusion that the temple is the lion. Since the author mentioned ‘elements’ observed
in both the animal and the temple that are explained in terms of the ‘numinous’, she may have
been aware of the symbolic role of the animal in these statements; however, such ideas are
not expressed clearly in her discussion. As a result, what is intended and emphasised by
reference to the lion in each metaphoric expression is not articulated, but remains vague.
In 1981, Cassin published an article about the king and the lion, ‘Le roi et le lion’
(Revue de l’Histoire des Religions 198.4, pp. 353-401), in which the association of the two
is discussed. Her aim was to establish their associative link by examining Mesopotamian
textual evidence and to consider the significance of the royal lion hunt, in which the king
slays lions. This work was the first serious study to examine the symbolic role of the animal
in its royal associations. The author, however, sometimes applied a theory in which the lion
was regarded as the ‘king of the wild’ (erπetu [sic]), suggesting that the animal occupies the
primary place in the predatory order. To my knowledge, however, there is no textual
evidence either in Sumerian or in Akkadian that describes the lion as the ‘king’, though there
are numerous examples in which the king is described as the ‘lion’. Cassin’s idea is easy for
modern readers to understand, since the perception of the lion as ‘the king of animals’ is
widely shared by modern societies, and from time to time has been reinforced by the way the
animal is described in animal-life documentaries or by the Disney film ‘The Lion King’.
Care is required, however, when an interpretation derived externally is imposed upon the
system of meanings in an ancient culture. Although the author was successful in
establishing a link between the king and the lion, her examination of the different traits of
royalty expressed by the lion was not sufficient: each metaphoric occurrence of the animal
was not treated within its particular context, but was dealt with collectively.
There are two major studies of metaphorical expressions in the Mesopotamian
literature. Jeremy Black, in Reading Sumerian Poetry (1998), examined Sumerian
metaphorical language as observed in the Lugalbanda epic, and Streck, in Der Bildersprache
der akkadischen Epik (1999), dealt with figurative language applied to Akkadian literary
works. The aim of Black’s study is to “direct attention to the richness” of Sumerian
metaphorical language, because the author felt that this aspect had received very little
attention in the field of Mesopotamian studies, despite its great importance in the field of
literature in general. He discussed previous studies that have dealt with metaphorical aspects
of Mesopotamian literature; in particular, special attention was paid to the work of Heimpel.
After crediting its pioneering importance, Black criticised Heimpel’s approach to architectural
Previous literature 13
metaphors which describe, for example, a temple in terms of animals or animal features.
Because Heimpel was ‘preoccupied by the real artistic works’ of guardian figures, he
overlooked their purely literary role as metaphors, although such an interpretation would
usually be inappropriate in a narrative context.15
Jeremy Black also discussed various modern literary theories and criticism, since a
particular focus of his study is the use of imagery in Sumerian literature. He argued that it is
difficult to find objective criteria for the identification of ‘live’ images and their separation
from ‘dead’ ones, and that all evaluation of literature exposes itself to the charge of
subjectivity. The ‘live’ images are those that have the intention of creating an emotive effect,
whereas the ‘dead’ ones do not necessarily fulfil this function, because they are reduced to a
commonplace expression for meaning something particular, such as the ‘leg’ of a table or the
‘foot’ of a mountain. The author produced statistics for the occurrence of metaphoric
expressions in various types of Sumerian literature in order to present the Lugalbanda epic as
belonging to a special group of literary works which make the greatest use of imagery. In
his analysis of each kind of imagery occurring in the epic, however, the author did not apply
a systematic or theoretical approach, because he considered that most readers would find it
more convincing to be “informal, ad hoc, pragmatic and imaginative” in dealing with
imagery. At the end of the conclusion he even said that literary criticism has no fixed
answers to offer, and that the understanding of literary explanations is a private and intimate
experience. This may be true, to some extent, but such a statement reduces the significance
of his own discussion of the literary theories he set out before analysing the Lugalbanda epic.
Although his study clarifies the important role played by metaphorical language in Sumerian
literature, the author’s investigation remains on an observational level, and very little attention
is paid to the inner mechanism of Sumerian metaphoric expressions.
The other major work, by Streck, provides a systematic classification of figurative
expressions occurring in Akkadian literary works. A unique aspect of his study is the
analysis of metaphoric expressions according to the classification of the ‘image-providing
fields’, which are divided into (for instance) fauna, vegetation, and nature. Each title is
further subdivided into the individual names of animals, plants, features of the cosmos, and
natural phenomena, in order to create categories in which passages referring to these names
are quoted. For the analysis of these figurative expressions, Streck applied a theoretical
framework of the ‘image receiver’ (Bildempfänger) and the ‘image provider’ (Bildspender)
which was originally demonstrated by Weinrich.16 In a metaphoric statement — for
example, ‘the hero is a lion’ (der Held ist ein Löwe) and its simile form ‘the hero is like a
lion’ (der Held ist wie ein Löwe) — ‘the hero’ is identified in both cases as the ‘image

15 J. Black 1998, 17-19.


16 Weinrich 1996, 316-339.
14 Introduction

receiver’ and ‘the lion’ as the ‘image provider’. The author argued that, in the case of
similes, the image receiver and the image provider are combined by a comparative
morpheme, ‘like’, whereas this is lacking in metaphors. Despite these differences, the reason
for both expressions being accepted lies in the agreement of “sem”, the smallest unit of
meaning, such as ‘courage’ shared by both the receiver and the provider in the examples
above. Streck’s study presents a systematic classification of figurative language as well as of
the grammatical features applied in both metaphors and similes in Akkadian, and his work
deserves special credit for applying a literary theory to actual examples of Akkadian
expressions. Despite the identification of the role played by the image receiver and the image
provider, however, the author has not investigated the way in which both factors work on the
metaphorical level. Nor, in examining the ‘agreement’ of sem, did he pay much attention to
the particular context in which each expression occurs; rather, he treated each image provider
as conveying a special sem applied to all the examples quoted. This results in generalisation
about the function of Akkadian metaphoric expressions, as if they convey fixed notions that
apply to all the cases in which a specific word occurs. Streck overlooked their flexible aspect
of evoking ideas. I believe that an appropriate understanding of metaphoric statements can
only be reconstructed by examining their internal relationships in relation to their contexts
and, without a careful reading of each context, interpretations of animals occurring in
metaphoric phrases or visual representations run the risk of being ‘subjective’.

§ 3. M e t h o d o l o g y

The current study uses three disciplines complementarily: textual analysis, art history, and
anthropology. Anthropological models of perceptions of animals in other parts of the world
are introduced to provide additional perspectives for the analysis of the Mesopotamian
examples. To elucidate the role of animals in metaphoric statements and iconography, I make
use of specific theories proposed by scholars in the fields of ‘the philosophy of language’
and archaeology. For the interpretation of animals referred to in literary texts as ‘metaphors’,
a theory called the ‘interaction view’ of metaphor is applied in order to articulate what is
intended by these figurative statements. This approach was developed by Max Black in
order to explain the nature and function of metaphor. He analysed metaphor in terms of
semantic ‘tension’ and ‘interaction’ (his theory is discussed in detail in the following
section).17 For the interpretation of animals represented in art, one of the modern approaches
demonstrated in archaeology, ‘contextual archaeology’, provides clues which help to explain
the animals’ symbolic role in the light of their internal relations to the particular contexts in

17 M. Black 1962, 25-47.


Methodology 15
which they occur. This approach has been developed by various scholars, and Hodder has
discussed the theory at length.
Hodder defines the term ‘contextual’ as the placing of items ‘with their texts’ (con-
text), and the general idea here is that ‘context’ can refer to those parts of a written document
which come immediately before and after a particular passage, and are so closely connected
in meaning with it that its sense is not clear without them.18 Archaeologists use the term
‘context’ in a variety of ways which have in common the connecting or interweaving of
things in a particular situation or group of situations. The meaning of things can only be
approached if contexts of use are considered. When an object is placed in its original
archaeological context, clues to its meaning are given, and it becomes no longer mute. Such
meanings comprise functional and symbolic aspects, for material culture is made by someone
and produced to do something. It has to be noted that when the term ‘context’ is used in the
archaeological sense, it refers to the nature and function of the spot where an object was
found. However, the term can also be used to refer to a more general principle, by which the
object is originally defined. Thus I believe that contexts can be read not only from the
functional aspect of the spot where an object was found but also from any other expressed
notions or subject matter which occur together with the object in question. For example, if a
lance tip bears a picture of a lion, the practical use of the lance provides a clue that it should
be interpreted in a martial context. In addition, if the same lance tip is engraved with an
inscription which includes the name of the king, both the functional meaning conveyed by
the weapon and a symbolic meaning perceived in a picture of a lion are to be ‘read’ in the
royal context. A picture of a lion, then, may be interpreted as bridging these two contexts,
and any traits of the lion corresponding to such contexts are emphasised.
The meaning of any subject matter presented either in texts or in art involves different
phases, each of which forms a different level of meaning according to the depth of
understanding. Panofsky identified three major processes in determining the meaning of the
visual arts in his study of ‘iconology’.19 Iconology is defined as the investigation and
interpretation of ‘meaning’ in an artistic work. Special emphasis is placed on the need to
study contemporary literary and historical sources in an attempt to discover the causes and
foundations of historical phenomena, including visual art, rather than simply to describe
them. In other words, this approach can be seen as emphasising the importance of
understanding the cultural contexts within which a work of visual art was produced. The
three major processes identified by Panofsky are:

1) identification of the primary or natural subject matter

18 Hodder 1986, 121-155.


19 Panofsky 1939, 28-31.
16 Introduction

2) identification of the secondary or conventional subject matter


3) identification of the intrinsic meaning or content.

If this idea is applied to the analysis of animals represented in Mesopotamian art, each
process of identifying the meaning should be defined. The primary process is to identify
which animal species are represented and what body postures they display: e.g., running,
flying, lying, squatting, the tail curled up, the head tilted down, and so on. The secondary
phase of the process is to recognise the conventional subject matter in which the animals are
represented. For example, if animals are attacked by a male human figure wearing a
distinctive tall hat, the entire scene should be understood as representing the theme of the
Assyrian royal hunt rather than a mere killing of animals, since a human figure wearing this
type of hat is conventionally understood as representing the Assyrian king. If an animal is
depicted together with a human figure whose head is decorated with bull’s horns, it must be
understood that the animal in the scene is represented in relation to a deity, because the figure
of a human wearing a horned crown is to be understood as representing a divine figure. The
third phase of the process is to identify the intrinsic meaning perceived in animals which
reveals underlying principles based on the attitude of a nation, a period, a class, or a
religious/philosophical persuasion. This level of meaning deals with connotation or
symbolism, and it requires wider background information which may be provided by the
primary and secondary phases of analysis, bringing together various information
contemporary with the art work examined. This last approach is especially effective when a
great deal of textual evidence is available. It is the primary aim of this study to identify these
intrinsic meanings animals convey. Analyses on this level are undertaken in the
interpretations of the royal and religious associations of animals. Most scholarly studies
dealing with these topics have not advanced beyond the level of understanding the
conventional subject matter in accordance with what is officially stated in texts.

§ 4. Metaphors and similes

The Mesopotamian king often identifies himself with a particular animal in royal inscriptions.
When the king says of himself ‘I am a lion’, does it literally mean that he is the beast, or
should it be taken as a metaphorical statement? Answers to this question depend on the
particular context in which each statement occurs, and the semantic importance of the animal
images rendered in each statement needs to be examined in its context. Whether to interpret
an expression as a metaphor or a literal statement depends on the way in which the
Metaphors and similes 17
expression is used, and the function of this expression is determined by semantic factors. In
discussions of metaphor, each of the following views is traditionally represented:20

a. Metaphor as substitution
b. Metaphor as comparison
c. Metaphor as semantic interaction.

A substitution view of metaphor treats a metaphorical expression as a substitute for some


other literal expression which would have expressed the same meaning. According to this
view, metaphors are simply codes awaiting decipherment: i.e., ‘saying one thing and
meaning another’. The task of the animal images, therefore, is to provide a substitute for the
king they represent. A comparison view of metaphor regards the metaphor as consisting of
the presentation of the underlying analogy or similarity. This view is a special case of the
substitution view, for it holds that a metaphorical statement might be replaced by an
equivalent literal comparison. The lion represents the king, for example, because the animal
is in some way like the king, and vice versa, to convey that ‘he is the strongest’. An
interaction view of metaphor was originally suggested by Richards, who considered that in
metaphor “we have two thoughts of different things active together and supported by a single
word, or phrase, whose meaning is a resultant of their interaction”.21 This view was then
systematically developed by Max Black. His approach provides the clue which reveals the
underlying function of certain metaphorical expressions.
More recently, metaphor has been studied extensively from various other
perspectives, including those of non-literary disciplines: for instance, cognitive psychology.
Two major and contrasting views of metaphor are represented in current discussions. One is
the ‘semantic’ account of metaphor, which locates metaphors primarily at the level of word
meanings, so that augmented metaphorical word meanings contribute to a different sentence
meaning. This view is best demonstrated by Cohen, who believes that all that is required to
account for metaphors is a set of (essentially) linguistic rules.22 The other is the ‘pragmatic’
view of metaphor, which moves up a gear and locates metaphor at the level of different uses
of sentences by speakers.23 Speaker meaning can be the same as sentence meaning, or it can
require a metaphorical reinterpretation of sentence meaning. Both approaches, however, are
primarily concerned with the nature of the relationship between metaphor meaning and
surface meaning.

20 M. Black 1962, 25-47.


21 Richards 1936, 93.
22 Cohen 1993, 58-70.
23 Searle 1993, 83-111.
18 Introduction

The approach advocated by Max Black may not be typically pragmatic, but it is
pragmatic in its reliance on context.24 A pivotal concept in his interaction theory of metaphor
is that ‘something new’ emerges by understanding a metaphoric statement, which is to be
regarded as a verbal action essentially demanding ‘uptake’, a creative response from a
knowledgeable reader. It is the reader who is led to engage in selecting, organising, and
projecting. A characteristic feature of Mesopotamian animal metaphors is that the reference
to an animal frequently occurs with other ideas or images which are normally not associated.
When the king says, for example, ‘I am a lion, a wild bull, a hero, a warrior, ...’, new
interpretations may emerge from combinations of various semantic elements through their
coactivity. His theory on metaphor is indispensable to an understanding of the underlying
intention of such statements.
Max Black distinguishes between the ‘focus’ and the ‘frame’ of a metaphorical
expression. For example, in the statement ‘The chairman ploughed through the discussion’,
the contrast is between the word ‘ploughed’ and the words surrounding it. The word
‘ploughed’ has here a metaphorical sense, while the other words have literal sense.
‘Ploughed’, therefore, is the ‘focus’ of the metaphor, and the remainder of the sentence in
which that word occurs is the ‘frame’. What creates the distinction is the semantic factor.
The presence of a particular frame can result in metaphorical use of the complementary word,
whereas the presence of a different frame for the same word may fail to result in metaphor.
Max Black develops the interaction view into a set of claims:

1. A metaphorical statement has two distinct subjects, to be identified as the


‘primary’ subject and the ‘secondary’ one. Thus, if one says ‘The poor are the
negroes of Europe’, ‘the poor’ is the primary subject and ‘negroes’ the secondary
one.
2. The secondary subject is to be regarded as a ‘system’ rather than an individual
element. Thus, in the above example, the presence of the word ‘negroes’ signals a
system of relationships, or ‘implicative complex’, thereby calling to mind numerous
ideas, images, sentiments, values, and stereotypes.
3. The metaphorical utterance works by applying to the primary subject a system of
‘associated implications’, comprised in the implicative complex, that are characteristic
of the secondary subject. In the example cited, for instance, ‘the poor’ of Europe
might be viewed not merely as an oppressed class, but also as sharing the inherited
and indelible qualities of ‘natural’ poverty attributed to black Americans by white
racists.25

24 M. Black 1979, 19-41.


25 Turner 1974, 30.
Metaphors and similes 19
4. These ‘implications’ usually consist of ‘commonplaces’ about the secondary
subject, but may, in suitable cases, consist of deviant implications established ad hoc
by the writer.
5. The metaphor selects, emphasises, suppresses, and organises features of the
primary subject by implying statements about it that normally apply to the secondary
subject.

The last claim explains the way in which the two subjects ‘interact’ in the context of a
particular metaphorical statement. For example, in the sentence ‘Man is a wolf’, the primary
subject, ‘man’, encourages the reader to select some of the properties of the secondary
subject, ‘wolf’. The effect of calling a man a ‘wolf’ is to evoke the ‘wolf-system of related
commonplaces’, in which associated notions, such as fierce, hungry, engaged in constant
struggle, preying upon other animals, and scavenging, are implied. The reader is then led by
this system to construct a corresponding system of implications to fit the primary subject,
‘man’. Any human traits that can be talked about in ‘wolf-language’ will be rendered
prominent, and any that cannot will be pushed into the background. The wolf-metaphor
suppresses some details and emphasises others: i.e., it organises our view of man. The
primary subject is thus ‘seen through’ the metaphorical expression, in which the metaphor
acts as a ‘filter’. It is important for the metaphor’s effectiveness that the system of
commonplaces associated with the word ‘wolf’ in the above example is known by the reader,
and that such commonplaces should be readily evoked. A metaphor that works in one
society may not work or may seem preposterous in another. For instance, the interpretation
of the statement ‘Man is a wolf’ would differ in a society where the wolf is worshipped as a
god, or where the animal is taken to be the reincarnation of a dead human.
In the case of Mesopotamian metaphor, for example, a statement ‘the king is an
enraged lion in the battle’ involves a contrast between the word ‘lion’ and the remainder of
the sentence; the word ‘lion’ is regarded as the focus of the metaphor. Two distinct subjects
of this statement, ‘the king’ as the primary subject (the ‘image receiver’ in Streck’s analysis)
and the ‘lion’ as the secondary one (the ‘image provider’) interact to emphasise specific
properties. The secondary subject functions as a system of associated implications to evoke
notions related to the animal in rage. The reader of this metaphoric statement constructs
images of the primary subject, the king, by applying corresponding properties arising from
the secondary subject. Characteristics of the furious lion, such as extraordinary
aggressiveness, cruelty, and the potential damage and destruction it causes, are selected from
a wider range of implications evoked by the animal, and the selected characteristics are
projected onto the primary subject in order to organise the reader’s view of the king in a
military context. The associated implications can successfully be evoked only if the reader
20 Introduction

shares the same commonplaces as the person who uttered the statement. The animal
metaphor emphasises particular features attributed to the king in a particular context, and our
view of the king is thus organised and constructed upon the imagery explained by the animal.
In the case of similes, a comparison view of metaphor takes them as the ‘full
statements’ of metaphoric expressions: metaphors are regarded as condensed or elliptical
forms of similes. Thus both constructions have the same meaning. For example, the
sentence ‘Richard is a lion’ may be expressed more accurately as ‘Richard is like a lion (in
being brave)’, in which the words added in brackets are to be understood in both
expressions, though they are not stated explicitly. Max Black argues, however, that a
comparison view suffers from a vagueness that borders upon vacuity.26 In his view, the
statement ‘A is like B’ admits degrees of likeness: i.e., ‘A is more like B than C on such and
such a scale of degrees by X (e.g., ‘being brave’ in the above example)’. Although he
admits that a metaphoric expression, such as ‘Poverty is crime’, may differ little semantically
from its stylistic variant, ‘Poverty is like crime’, the simile says either too little or too much.27
His dissatisfaction with the equation of simile with metaphor arises from his eagerness to
point out that metaphor represents far more than just simple comparisons. Soskice pointed
out that Max Black’s mistake lies in suggesting that similes are all point-by-point
comparisons.28 In her view, simile may be the means of making comparisons of two kinds,
the comparison of similars and of dissimilars; in the latter case, simile shares much of the
imaginative life and cognitive function of its metaphorical counterparts. For this reason,
metaphor and simile can be regarded as sharing the same function and differing primarily in
their grammatical form.
More recently, the role of similarity observed in both metaphors and similes has been
re-examined. Ortony suggested that although the process of making comparisons is of
fundamental importance in the comprehension of similes, the comparisons involved in both
metaphors and similes still require explanation because they cannot be construed as literal
uses of language.29 Miller has presented a detailed formal treatment of the various ways in
which similarity statements can underlie metaphors.30 According to him, metaphors are
recognised as false and then treated as comparison statements. For example, ‘Man is a wolf’
is false in fact and, in order to understand it, the reader associates it with ‘Man is like a wolf’
or ‘Man seems like a wolf’. In contrast with approaches which treat comparison as the basic
process underlying metaphor comprehension, an interpretation of similes as implicit ‘class-
inclusion’ statements has been proposed by Glucksberg and Keysar.31 In their view, literal
26 M. Black 1962, 35-37.
27 M. Black 1979, 30-31.
28 Soskice 1985, 58-61
29 Ortony 1993, 342-356.
30 Miller 1993, 357-400.
31 Glucksberg & Keysar 1993, 401-424.
Metaphors and similes 21
comparison statements involve objects at the same level of categorisation, such as
‘harpsicords are like pianos’; but this statement cannot be paraphrased as ‘harpsicords are
pianos’. Similarly, when two objects differ in the level of categorisation, they cannot literally
be likened to one another; instead, the categorical relation needs to be expressed explicitly.
For instance, one cannot say ‘Grand pianos are like pianos’; one must say ‘Grand pianos are
a type of piano’. The metaphors are not understood by transforming them into similes; they
are intended as class-inclusion statements. That is, when metaphors are expressed as
comparison (i.e., as similes) they are interpreted as implicit category statements. Therefore, a
metaphoric comparison is actually an implicit class-inclusion assertion, and similes are
identified as metaphorical because of this implicit categorisation.
Mesopotamian similes are typically indicated by - gim in Sumerian and k¬ma or -iß in
Akkadian. When the king Esarhaddon says, for instance, ‘I became enraged like a lion
(labbiß)’, it is true that the lion-simile is used here to describe the furious mood of the king,
but it does not seem to be used merely as a substitute for its literal expression, or to be
intended as a class-inclusion statement. Heimpel has suggested that the difficulty in
distinguishing between metaphors and similes in Sumerian should not be regarded as
deriving from the inability of Sumerian to distinguish between identity and similarity.32 His
discussion of similes and comparison, however, has been criticised by Jeremy Black, who
argues that the Sumerian suffix -gg i m is sometimes replaced with -àà m (the third-person
singular enclitic copula suffix meaning ‘to be’) in parallel phrases or even in different
manuscripts of the same passage.33 This suggests that Sumerian similes present a distinctive
feature of identification, since the function of -àà m is to express the identity of two entities
rather than their similarity. It is perhaps better, therefore, not to try too hard to distinguish
between the function of metaphor and simile. In the example given above, reference to a
‘lion’ evokes ideas associated with a ‘lion in rage’; thus the status of the primary subject
selects a particular aspect of the secondary subject. This idea is then projected onto the
primary subject, thereby emphasising the king’s anger, by which the reader’s view is
organised and constructed. The way in which the primary and the secondary subjects
interact thus offers a close parallel to the case of the metaphor.

32 Heimpel 1968, 50ff.


33 J. Black 1998, 16.
22 Introduction

§ 5. Symbols and divine attributes

References to animal names and animal behaviour occur in Mesopotamian literary texts, in
which they are intended to describe something other than themselves: i.e., they are used in
figurative forms as symbolic agents. In iconography, the figure of an animal is often
depicted together with a deity. The presence of the animal provides a clue to the
identification of the deity by specifying the nature and characteristics of the deity represented
in the scene. As the term ‘symbol’ has been subject to widely varying uses in anthropology,
the sense in which it is used in this study requires definition. A ‘symbol’ refers to
something that evokes meanings beyond itself. This function arises from associations. A
symbol is concrete and material, and what is implied by a symbol is often abstract and
conceptual, but not necessarily so. As defined by Hodder, the word ‘symbol’ refers to an
object or situation in which a direct, primary, or literal meaning also designates other indirect,
secondary, and figurative meanings.34 The term ‘symbolic meaning’ is to be understood as
indicating the secondary references evoked by the primary meanings. Thus symbolism
refers to a system of meanings evoked by the primary meanings. These meanings are
formed as a result of thought operations, in which particular symbolic implications are
emphasised according to context. A symbol thus conveys additional meanings or concepts.
Moreover, it does not merely reflect such meanings passively but plays an active role in
forming and giving meaning to social behaviour.
Animal symbolism represents a characteristic feature of ‘symbol’ or ‘metaphor’,
defined by Turner as contrasting with ‘sign’ or ‘metonym’.35 Turner distinguishes between
sign and symbol, in which the former refers to indexical relations with the world, whereas
the latter refers to iconic relations with inner experience. Indexical relations involve one-way
communication between a sign and what is indicated by it. Iconic relations, on the other
hand, involve multiple communications between a symbol and what is symbolised by it, in
which the ideas evoked by symbols deal with intrinsic aspects of meanings that work on the
level of internal experiences. The nature of a symbol is regarded by Turner as equivalent to
that of metaphor, which is a complex representation, in contrast with that of sign, which is
equivalent to metonym, referring to a simple substitution.
Hodder has argued that rhetorical devices used in language can be applied to material
culture in the same way that they are used in narratives.36 He identified four types of
rhetorical form: metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony. Metaphor is regarded as the
use of a word or phrase in a new context in order to express relations of similarity or
analogy, through which new dimensions of the familiar are often opened up. Archaeological
34 Hodder 1982, 1-12.
35 Turner 1968.
36 Hodder 1995, 164-168.
Symbols and attributes 23
examples of this device are, for instance, a pot made in the form of a woman, or Neolithic
tombs built to represent houses.37 Metonymy occurs when reference is made to something
by substituting an associated idea or object, such as a crown for the king. Synecdoche
occurs when a part is used to imply a whole: for instance, a sail standing for a ship. These
are traditional definitions of figures of speech, in which metonymy and synecdoche can be
seen as forms of metaphor. In this definition, however, difficulties emerge in distinguishing
metonymy from synecdoche, when the latter includes associated elements, substituted for the
whole but excluded from that whole, as parts. A different definition, by White, is introduced
to solve this contradiction. He regards metonymy as indicating any case in which a part
refers to a whole, while synecdoche occurs when a part stands for a quality of the whole.38
White’s definition of metonymy and synecdoche is more specific and useful in avoiding
confusion between the two. In an archaeological example, his definition of synecdoche can
be applied to the depictions of female breasts as representing nurturing. Irony, on the other
hand, is the negation at the figurative level of what is affirmed at a literal level. In terms of
historical sequence, irony describes a course of events, the result of which is the direct
opposite of what is expected. Hodder’s interpretation of material culture in terms of
rhetorical devices is important and helpful in articulating the way in which symbolic
meanings are constructed by classifying the patterns of thought processes applied to
rhetorical devices. His approach applied to metonymy, synecdoche, and irony is applicable
to various contexts of material culture. His interpretation of metaphor, however, may need to
be re-examined at a deeper level in order to explain its mechanism. It is true that ‘new
dimensions of the familiar’ can emerge from the shape of a ‘pot’ and that of a ‘woman’,
which have some kind of ‘similarity’. However, what is lacking in this observation is that it
is the viewer’s mind that selects a particular factor or ‘a new dimension’ which emerges as a
result of ‘interaction’ between the two. If this example is applied to a metaphoric statement, a
‘pot’ functions as the primary subject, and its particular features are selected and emphasised
by the associations arising from the secondary subject, a ‘woman’. It is important to
understand this ‘interacting’ process of the two subjects in metaphoric statement before
considering what ‘dimensions of the familiar’ are focused on and opened up as a result.
In the case of animals referred to as divine ‘attributes’, the term is used primarily as
in art history. Attributes are represented together with the figure of a god or person in order
to establish his/her identity. They become commonly associated with the attributed figure.
For example, in Christian iconography, saints are often shown with the instruments of their
martyrdom or torture, such as St Catherine’s wheel and St Lawrence’s gridiron. To give
some examples in Mesopotamian iconography: supernatural beings are distinguished from

37 Hodder 1990, 51-52, 149-155.


38 White 1973.
24 Introduction

mortals by the horned crowns attached to their heads; the sun god Íamaß is identified by his
saw, Marduk by his spade, and Nabû by a stylus. Animals and composite animals occur
commonly as divine attributes. Attributes thus function predominantly to indicate and
represent the nature and character of something other than themselves. In this sense,
attributes share the same function as symbols. A characteristic feature of attributes is,
however, that the link between the attribute and the attributed is always visibly present in
iconography, and the function of attributes is referential and complementary in determining
the identity of the attributed: a deity. An attribute represents some characteristic aspect of a
deity and may have retained the original form of the animal symbol representing a divine
notion. Thus, an attribute can be understood as a part of the entire divine notion, explaining
and emphasising particular aspects of a deity.

§ 6. The origin of religious thought

Animals are used extensively as symbols in the religious context. Before examining the
specific role of animals, it is important to discuss the nature of religion, in order to supply the
broader background in which animals function as symbols. Religious concepts are
expressed by agencies, such as deities, or a single deity, or spirits, or simply supernatural
powers, and human reaction and response to supernatural authority is set out in myths that
manifest and incorporate religious thought, and also in rituals that enact and validate religious
thought. Religion therefore expresses in thought and action these two aspects of human
response to supernatural experiences. The origin of religion has been a long-disputed topic
in the field of social anthropology. The definition of religion ranges from a ‘belief in
spiritual beings’ (Tylor) or an extension of social relations to superhuman beings or forces (a
view held by many modern anthropologists) to the identification of religion as the ‘sacred’
demarcated from the ‘profane’ (Durkheim and others). The theories of nineteenth-century
anthropologists about the earliest form of religion can be roughly divided into three types:
animism, animatism, and totemism. Animism is a belief in indwelling spirits as a separate
entity from the body, a theory proposed by Tylor.39 Animatism is a belief that the world is
inhabited by a diffuse impersonal power, which stemmed from the early human’s sense of
awe and wonder at the contemplation of the natural world, a theory proposed by Marrett.40
Totemism is a belief in a mystical relationship that connects human groups with animal or
plant species which are believed to be their mythological ancestor, a theory proposed by
Durkheim.41 In these theories, the belief in ‘spirit’ or ‘power’, either indwelling in each
39 Tylor 1871.
40 Marrett 1900.
41 Durkheim 1915.
Religious thought 25
natural object or diffuse in the world, forms a characteristic feature of religious thought in
which such an entity is invisible and unable to prove its existence.
The origin of such religious entities may have been derived from the search for
explanations and for an understanding of various contradictions and natural phenomena by
which humans are surrounded and affected. When humans face natural phenomena that are
beyond their control, the psychological reaction is an overwhelming feeling of ‘awe’. This
experience of awe, ranging from terrified fear to irresistible fascination, caused by the
confrontation with overwhelming forces existing outside normal experience, makes humans
feel helpless and insecure. The strong sense of fear and fascination in the human mind is
transformed into veneration which is projected onto the object that caused these sensations.
The sense of awe is differentiated from the ordinary sense of fear or fascination by this
additional sense of reverence. Otto regarded such an experience as basic to all religion and
described it as ‘numinous’.42 It was to explain such overwhelming experiences or
difficulties in human life that the concept of a supernatural spirit or power came into being.
Through prayers and ritual activities, humans have tried to establish a communicative link
with these supernatural entities in an attempt to tame and control irresistible phenomena.
Such an explanatory aspect is an important function of religion, and this approach to the
origin of religion is sometimes referred to as the ‘rationalist’s theory’, proposed by scholars
such as Tylor and Frazer, who argued that religion originated in the attempts of early humans
to make sense of their experience of their environment and life. By promoting and
constituting religious ideas, religion not only answers existential questions but also validates
cultural order in the community. In other words, religion posits controlling forces in the
universe that sustain the moral and social order which gives validity and meaning to human
acts by creating a supernatural world of unseen entities that lies beyond the world perceived
directly by human senses.
Mesopotamian religion has been studied by various scholars, each focusing on
different aspects, ranging from the the pantheon to ritual texts. It is worth mentioning the
work of Jacobsen and Lambert in particular: they have made a major contribution in
elucidating Mesopotamian religious systems. Jacobsen first drew attention to a characteristic
feature of Sumerian systems of religion, namely that Sumerian deities were personifications
of forces, aspects, or parts of nature as perceived by humans, and each Sumerian city state
had a different patron deity.43 Although Sumer was politically divided into independent city
states, the deities were related to each other in a genealogical scheme forming a pantheon. In
his book The Treasures of Darkness (1976), Jacobsen discussed the history of
Mesopotamian religion in terms of religious ‘metaphors’ that constitute the means of

42 Otto 1943.
43 Jacobsen, et al., 1946, 185-219.
26 Introduction

communicating the experience of the ‘numinous’. He regarded Mesopotamian religion as


divided into three major phases, each roughly corresponding to a millennium. In an early
phase (the fourth millennium), features such as the worship of the forces observed in natural
phenomena, and of fertility and abundance, are the main focuses; the third millennium
‘metaphors’ emphasise the concept of the ruler in the divine world; the second millennium
‘metaphors’ stress individual features, such as the increasing importance of the personal god.
Jacobsen’s study is regarded as the first major attempt to explain Mesopotamian religion
systematically.
Lambert’s research, on the other hand, covers extensive areas, and includes a survey
of the historical development of the Mesopotamian pantheon.44 In the course of history there
were changes at the highest level: Enlil was the head of the pantheon by the early second
millennium, when he was joined by Anu, and the two remained in control until Marduk
displaced them towards the end of the second millennium. Later in the first millennium,
Nabû rose to be his equal and stayed in power, while Nabonidus’ attempt to replace Marduk
with Sin failed. One of the most important features observed in the Mesopotamian religious
system is the development of the concept of amalgamated ‘divineship’, so that major deities
were identified with similar gods of earlier periods, while minor deities were absorbed into a
major one. For example, the god Marduk is presented in En∑ma eliß as Ninurta redivivus by
assuming Ninurta’s defining characteristic as a monster-killer.45 The god Ningirsu, a local
version of Ninurta, is regarded by Jeremy Black as already incorporating minor cultic
objects, such as the ‘Palmtree (King)’ and ‘(Strong) Copper’ which are believed to have
been worshipped in Lagaß before the time of Gudea, by turning them into defeated enemies
of the divine hero.46 The ultimate example is found in a god-list devoted to Marduk, in
which the god has acquired as his attributes various other deities whose status has been
reduced to form different aspects of Marduk himself:47 “Uraß (is) Marduk of planting,
Lugalidda (is) Marduk of the abyss, Ninurta (is) Marduk of the pickaxe, Nergal (is) Marduk
of battle, Zababa (is) Marduk of warfare, Enlil (is) Marduk of lordship and consultations,
Nabû (is) Marduk of accounting, Sin (is) Marduk who lights up the night, Íamaß (is)
Marduk of justice, Adad (is) Marduk of rain, Tißpak (is) Marduk of troops, Great Anu (is)
Marduk of ..., Íuqamuna (is) Marduk of the container, [ (is)] Marduk of everything”. 48
This scheme presents Marduk as the sole possessor of cosmological power; all the other
powers of nature are regarded as his aspects. The syncretism that these amalgamated

44 Lambert 1975, 191-200.


45 Lambert 1986.
46 J. Black 1988, 19-25.
47 Bottéro 1977, 5-28.
48 CT 24, 50: BM 47406, obv. translated by Lambert 1975, 197-198.
Religious thought 27
religious systems represent is a significant feature of Mesopotamian religion, and it can be
seen as a gradual shift towards what appears to be an earlier form of ‘monotheism’.
In Mesopotamia, the concept of awe is often described in visual terms, as an aura or
radiance. The Sumerian words are s u . z i (ßalummatu in Akkadian) and m e . l á m
(melammu), which are translated ‘awesome radiance, awe-inspiring sheen, aura’. It is an
inherent quality of deities, royalty, monsters, and buildings. In iconography, the sun god is
often depicted with a ray of light emerging from his shoulders, and the goddess Ißtar,
identified with Venus, is represented with a nimbus, each tip of which ends in a star
encircling her body. Another word, n í (pulu≈tu), translated as ‘fearsomeness’, is also used
in similar contexts.49 The psychological response of a human to some animals is related to
this sense of awe, which may be more readily recognised in the nature, appearance, strength,
and behaviour of those animals that evoke specific feelings of awe, fear, and admiration. For
example, the sense of fear brought on by the noise of thunder may be expressed in terms of
the roar of a lion: each experience of fear was originally different, but shared similar
properties that associated the two. The noise of thunder and the spectacular sight of lightning
were believed to be caused by an invisible power: that is to say, visible natural phenomena
are caused and controlled by an invisible supernatural power. When a lion roars, humans not
only hear the noise but also visualise the animal as the object that projects that sound. The
psychological effect of the noise of thunder and a lion’s roar in each case is to induce fear.
The sense of fear prompted by the confrontation with a roaring lion may be expressed as a
sense of awe; the hope that the animal will not attack the viewer complements admiration of
the overwhelming strength of the animal and its beauty. The sense of fear caused by the
noise of thunder is also related to a sense of awe; the hope that lightning may not strike the
viewer combines with the fascination generated by the visual phenomena of thunderstorms.
When a simple sense of fear is experienced together with a sense of admiration, it can be
sublimated as a sense of awe and reverence to be directed towards the object which inspired
such a response. Thus, a simple feeling of fear is transformed into a sense of worship and
religious respect. It is a similar psychological reaction, experienced in connection with both
the lion’s roar and the noise of thunder, that associates the two separate phenomena.
Because the supernatural power that is believed to control natural phenomena is unseen, it is
difficult to describe and understand such a concept without applying symbolic agents that are
based on visible objects existing in the real world. The characteristics of animals are
therefore used to describe these supernatural entities as well as natural phenomena,
establishing associative links between animals and supernatural forces (see diagram below).

49 Cf. Cassin 1968, 26.


28 Introduction

human perceptions

sense of fear, admiration, and awe

natural phenomena
(visible)

supernatural forces
animals associative link (invisible)

Modern anthropologists examine religion in its relation to the social organisation and
human relationships which gave rise to the religious order and beliefs. The latter are often
closely related, since the order of the supernatural world is inevitably modelled on actual
human experience within society. However, the supernatural world is not merely a parallel
or a copy of the real world but a transformation and projection of the actual world in which
humans live. Religious systems may thus be seen as reflections and extensions of ideal
models of human societies. It has been suggested that people in fragmented clans tend to
have a cult of ancestral spirits for each clan, and that people in a centralised state are more
likely to have a ‘high god’ or centralised pantheon.50
Before the formation of the Akkadian dynasty as the first centralised political state in
Mesopotamia, there are indications that the earlier social stage of the Sumerian city states
developed from just such fragmented clans. Jacobsen has proposed the possible existence,
prior to the historical period, of ‘totemic’ systems, in which social groups were perceived to
have sacred relationships with particular animals. He noted and discussed the strong animal
associations of some Sumerian city names. First, the name of Adab is identical with the
Sumerian name of a certain kind of bird: a . d a . a b is written either UD.NUN.KI or
UD.NUN.MUÍEN, which is described as “usab/usåbu” in Akkadian.51 The writing of the
city name Adab is regarded as originating in a picture of a symbol in the form of a disc
affixed to a stake. This picture also represents an usåbu-bird, therefore suggesting the

50 Keesing 1981, 334.


51 Diri I 140-141; Jacobsen 1967, 100.
a . d a . a b : UD.NUN.KI: “(=úú . t u )” n u . u n k i . k i : ú -[sa-ab ]
a . d a . a b : UD.NUN.MUÍEN: “(=úú . t u )” (=nn u . u n ) m u . ß e . e n . n u . u : ú-sa- [bu ]
Religious thought 29
association of an usåbu-bird with the name of the city, Adab. Secondly, the name of the city
Lagaß is written as ÍIR.BUR.LA.KI, of which the lexical equivalent is “a-ri-bu” (raven).52
Thus the raven may have been perceived as the clan-symbol of Lagaß. Thirdly, the sign
which designates the name of the city of Kiß represents the head of an ungulate quadruped;
the Sumerian word k a ß (to run) may furnish a good etymology for k i ß , denoting a swift-
running hoofed animal.53 Jacobsen has suggested that these animal associations are the clan-
symbols or ‘totems’ of the cities. The symbol of a particular clan came to represent a city
possibly because of the clan’s political dominance there. Furthermore, the totemic
association of the kind of fish and the kind of snake attributed to each city is indicated in pre-
Sargonic riddles found at Lagaß. Each riddle asking the name of a city consists of an
enumeration of a canal, a divine name, and names of a fish and a snake as clues, which are all
qualified as ‘its’ (-bbi), referring to the town in question.54 The name of the canal mentioned
in the clue is a local one, and the name of the deity refers to the chief god of the city. The fact
that the names of fish and snakes are mentioned together with those of canals and deities may
suggest the association of each city with its own fish and snake as a part of a ‘totemic’
system. This raises an important question about the relationships between these particular
animals and their designated cities.
The term ‘totemism’ involves the perception of a particular animal associated with a
clan as its mythological ancestor, and whether this was exactly the case in Sumer has not
been established beyond doubt. Animal connotations in city names may imply symbols of
clans which became dominant in these cities, but whether they were originally ‘totemic’
symbols or not should remain open to discussion. Selz has pointed out that the names of
early Sumerian kings take the form of their animal associations.55 Among the list of royal
names from the first dynasty of Kiß, names such as ‘Lord, ibex of heaven’
(een.darà.an.na), ‘Dog’ (kalbum), ‘Lamb’ (kal∑mum), ‘Scorpion’ (zuqaq¬p), and ‘Gazelle’
(<mmaßda>, arwium) occur. Akkadian personal names are another category which might be
viewed in the light of ‘totemic’ implications. Many of them contain or consist of the name of
an animal, often combined with qualities related to deities or royalty. There are also personal
names that consist of an animal name, such as Immeru ‘(Mr) Ram’ for a masculine name and
its feminine form Immertu ‘(Ms) Ewe’; in the same way, Lalûm ‘(Mr) Male (goat) Kid’ and
Lalûtum ‘(Ms) Female (goat) Kid’; Arwi’um ‘(Mr) Gazelle’ and Arw¬tum ‘(Ms) Female
Gazelle’; also ∏ab¬tum ‘(Mr) Gazelle’ and Í∆lebu ‘(Mr) Fox’.56 It is not known, however,

52 Diri IV 152-153; Jacobsen 1967, 101.


b u . u r : ÍIR.BUR.MUÍEN: s i . i r b u . u r m u . ß e . e n . n u . u : a-[ ri-bu]
l a . g a . a ß : ÍIR.BUR.LA.KI: s i . i r b u . u r l a . a k i . k i : ÍU
53 Jacobsen 1939, 77, note 37; RlA 5, 607-608.
54 Biggs 1973, 26-33.
55 Selz 1998, 140, note 30.
56 Cf. Stamm 1939, 253-255; CAD, ‘Í’, part 2, 269-270, under ß∆lebu 1-e).
30 Introduction

whether personal names of this kind suggest any special association between a person and
the particular animal after which he or she is called. Such names may have been
abbreviations of longer names or even nicknames.
The use of animal names to represent human groups is common: for example, Derby
County ‘Rams’ v. Sheffield Wednesday ‘Owls’, Chicago ‘Bulls’ v. Minnesota
‘Timberwolves’, or Cameroon’s ‘Lions’ v. Nigeria’s ‘(Super-) Eagles’. The animals in
these examples are, however, not intended to represent any sacred/ancestral relationship
between the members of the groups and the animals designated, but are used as ‘emblems’ to
identify the group, and any desirable qualities associated with the animals may be attributed
to the groups in appropriate contexts. Naming the group after its symbolic animal establishes
a distinction between that group and the others, creating a new relationship between their
chosen animals. Such naming can promote the solidarity of a group under a symbolic
slogan. Although animal names are used in various contexts in order to represent human
groups, the distinction must be made between ‘totemic’ use (ancestral relationship) and
‘emblematic’ use. When animals are intended to be seen as the ‘totems’ of human groups,
this should naturally be supported by myths that account for the origin of the universe and
human life. The Mesopotamian ‘totemic’ traces suggested by Jacobsen have to be assessed
in the light of Sumerian and Akkadian accounts of the origin of the world. The animal
connotations of Sumerian city names and Akkadian personal names are informative, but they
cannot be immediately regarded as ‘totemic’ unless the information is supplemented by
mythological accounts or by archaeological evidence.
The use of animals in a religious context prompts an important question: the animals’
relation to the gods. The question should focus on the role of animals that are found in texts
and art in association with particular deities: whether the animals are simply used as ‘signs’
or ‘emblems’ to indicate the identity of the gods, as if attaching a ‘name-tag’ to deities, or
whether they stand for certain aspects of the divine function or for the ‘original forms’ of
deities before they were represented in human form. The earliest representation of a deity in
Mesopotamian art is possibly that of Inanna, depicted on the Uruk Vase of the Late Uruk
period (late fourth millennium):57 the goddess is represented in anthropomorphic form
receiving gifts from the en (ruler). Because the ideology of rulership in Uruk was based on
the so-called sacred marriage of the ruler with the goddess, it was perhaps difficult to
imagine the deity assuming a form other than human. Major deities, such as Nanna, Utu,
Enki, Enlil, and Nin≈ursag, were all represented in human form from the early third
millennium, whereas the chthonic (underworld) deities retained theriomorphic features until
the end of the Old Babylonian period.58 In the text called Göttertypentext, which is of

57 PKG 18, fig. 33.


58 RlA 8, 222-245.
Religious thought 31
Middle Babylonian origin and describes the ‘image’ (πalmu) of twenty-seven gods and
hybrids, the goddess Nintu, for example, is described as having “scales like a snake”, though
in art she is represented in the human form, and three gods (including Ensi-ma≈, the servant
of Enki) are described as having bull’s ears.59 This text is, however, unique in the sense that
many of the divine names are not attested elsewhere, and most of the images described do
not correspond to what is represented in art. The text must have been written for a very
specific — though unknown — purpose, and it is not appropriate to generalise on the basis
of this text. The name of a number of gods is equated with, or spelled by, the logogram gud
(bull), and most of them are related to death or the netherworld.60 In art from the third
millennium onwards divine figures are represented with bull’s horns protruding from their
heads, to mark their divine nature and to distinguish them from ordinary human figures, not
necessarily with the intention of representing a theriomorphic feature. Akkadian seal
impressions, for example, often show a snake god with a human upper body, though the
identity of the deity has not been established, and a god, probably Ninazu, is shown with
scales on his body in the representation on the obverse of the sculpted stone from Eßnunna.61
The gods were thus represented not only in anthropomorphic form but also in theriomorphic
form in the third millennium.
Wiggermann regards the process of divine anthropomorphism and that of monster
formation as occurring simultaneously and complementarily at the end of the Uruk period.62
On the other hand, Jacobsen believes that the situationally determined non-human forms of
the gods were their original forms or old forms that survived into a later age.63 For example,
the moon god Nanna’s images, as represented in the hymns,64 are first the ‘horns of the
waxing moon’, followed by further associations with the ‘horns of a horned crown’, with
the ‘horns of a fierce young bull’ to embody the power of virility, and then with the ‘fruit’
and the ‘womb’ to represent the power of fertility. Jacobsen regards these ‘non-human
forms’, which were determined according to each situation, as common in the fourth
millennium, but thinks that they were superseded by ‘human forms’ from the early third
millennium onwards, while ‘non-human forms’ became divine ‘emblems’.
This shift in divine representations is indeed observed from the fourth to the third
millennium, as long as we examine the iconography in the light of ‘what is present’ and
‘what is absent’ and take it at its face value. Although it is elsewhere suggested that cult
objects in ‘non-human forms’, such as the ‘Palmtree (King)’ and ‘(Strong) Copper’, were

59 Köcher 1953, 57-95.


60 An-Anum VI 203ff., EA IV 138ff. with glosses; SLT 124 VII 17-19, VS 24, 20 iii 7-9, OB without
glosses.
61 Frankfort 1943, no. 331.
62 Wiggermann 1992, 143-185.
63 Jacobsen 1976, 7-9.
64 4R2 , pl. 9 (MNS 165-179), lines 7-14.
32 Introduction

once worshipped in Lagaß, the absence of the divine figure in anthropomorphic form does
not immediately signify that deities were originally perceived as ‘non-human forms’. It is
well known, for example, that Jesus was often represented by the ‘lamb’ or the ‘fish’
(IKHTHUS, the Greek word for ‘fish’, corresponding to the first letter of each Greek word
for ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour’) in early Christian art. In early Buddhist art, in
which the direct representation of Buddha was strictly avoided, his presence was indicated
by the ‘Wheel of Law’ or the ‘stupa’. In both cases, the theology either prohibited or was in
disagreement about representing the holy figure in human form, in order to avoid idol
worship, and therefore it was a long time before the common type of icon first occurred. The
absence until then of a representation of Jesus or Buddha in human form, however, does not
mean that these holy figures were perceived in ‘non-human’ forms, such as a ‘fish’ or a
‘lamb’, nor indicate that people worshipped a ‘wheel’ or ‘stupa’, but that these creatures or
objects were used as symbols in order to convey the concepts of the holy figures of Jesus
and Buddha. Whatever form the representations in art took, religious beliefs in both cases
undoubtedly perceived the human form. Mesopotamian sources provide no information
about the theological ‘system’ in the early period, so we need to handle the limited evidence
carefully, without drawing a conclusion hastily based on the absence of evidence, since no
firm evidence has emerged so far to suggest that the deities were conceived in ‘non-human’
form in early Mesopotamia. In my view, if Mesopotamian religion was ever characterised
by the worship of non-human objects, such as animals and objects of animatism, some trace
of this early tradition would have survived in myths. A study of myths, especially those
giving an account of the creation of the world and the birth of man, is indispensable for this
examination, and this point will be dealt with later, in the Conclusion.

§ 7. Myths and ritual

Mesopotamian myths are divided into two categories, according to language: Sumerian and
Akkadian. Although the majority of the surviving Sumerian myths were written down from
the second millennium onwards, their originals go back to the third millennium when the
language was still in use. In his study of Mesopotamian myths, Kramer interpreted
Sumerian myths from the point of view of rationalism, in which myth is regarded as merely a
symbolical or allegorical way of expressing rational observations or truths.65 For example,
the myths about the early interrelations of Anu, Enlil, and Enki can be translated directly into
physical language: sky and water were separated by air. This view, however, cannot explain
why the narrative structure of myth often adopts a complicated form in order to express mere

65 Kramer 1944.
Myths and Ritual 33
natural phenomena. Jacobsen, on the other hand, accepts the idea that myth is in a sense
allegorical, but considers that it also has emotional aspects.66 He regards the allegory in
Sumerian myths as a means of expressing the facts and processes of nature: these natural
forces are represented by anthropomorphic gods in order to explain their mutual relations in
terms of human psychology. His interpretation differs from Kramer’s by distinguishing
between the ‘mythological’ interpretation of myths and the ‘human and psychological’
interpretation. In other words, the allegorical interpretation of content is separated from the
comprehension of feelings that led to the expression of that content in its mythical form.
This psychological approach holds that “the key to understanding the forces which one meets
in nature is felt to lie in the understanding of their characters, exactly as the clue to
understanding men lies in understanding their characters”.67 These approaches may be
summarised as, respectively, a simplistic rationalism (Kramer) and a rationalism explained in
terms of human psychology (Jacobsen).
Myths are complex by nature and have multiple functions, which manifest themselves
through the operation of mystic symbols. What distinguishes myths from mere stories is
their religious nature: supernatural creatures play important roles in providing reasons and
explanations for the state of the world or a society. Moreover, myths pass from one
generation to another once a historical figure, such as Gilgameß in Mesopotamian myths,
achieves quasi-religious status as a great hero or semi-deified figure. The question of how
myths were created can be approached from two different angles. One approach is to focus
on their functional aspects, by examining the occurrence of symbols in mythological themes.
The other is to focus on narrative aspects of myths, by examining the formation and the
development of stories. The former emphasises the functional aspects of myths in social and
psychological contexts in order to establish how they affect the community on the level of the
individual. The latter emphasises the narrative evolution of myths, in which the role played
by the story-teller is one of the key factors. The oral tradition of myths naturally predates the
introduction of writing. When myths were passed down orally from generation to
generation, the story-teller himself probably played an important role in the continuing
evolution of the myths. Goody has argued that oral forms often continue even after a literate
tradition is established; the two traditions coexisted and acted on one another dynamically.68
This situation doubtless led to new associations for different mythic symbols or episodes
which previously existed individually, resulting in unexpected effects and adding to the
complexity of narrative development.
Myths, as a whole, consist of dynamic systems of meanings: various functional
elements interact with narrative elements, the formation and development of which continue.
66 Jacobsen, et al., 1946, 125-219.
67 Jacobsen, et al., 1946, 168.
68 Goody 1987, 78-86.
34 Introduction

Mythic symbols have also been analysed from the point of view of psychology. For
example, Jung regarded myths as the way in which certain general symbols, inborn and
universal, manifest themselves through the unconscious mind.69 His theory is characterised
by the notion of ‘archetype’ or ‘collective unconscious’, signifying some general collective
origin which generates recurrent symbols in mythical themes. Psychoanalytic approaches
can be effective in solving problems caused by the complexity of mythic symbols, but they
cannot explain everything, since they underestimate the importance of the different cultural
contexts in which myths are formed. Lévi-Strauss suggested that myth is used to reflect
universal contradictions, such as the problems of death and creation and various cultural
conflicts; in myth these contradictions are constantly transposed and modified through the
medium of symbols.70 This certainly explains an important aspect of myth, but the basic
function of myth should not be regarded as being only to reflect contradictions.
The nature and function of myths are highly complex, and this complexity prevents
any single approach from solving the problem with an explanation that covers extensive
areas of mythological function. Kirk has classified the function of myth in three categories:
1) narrative and entertaining; 2) operative, interactive, and validatory; 3) speculative and
explanatory.71 He suggested that these various functional aspects of myth have developed
side by side and together with the evolution of the narrative. He also emphasised the
importance of recognising that myths were formed gradually, just as stories developed in
which complex symbolic elements evolved gradually, with the result that the function,
growth, and origin of the myth are all interconnected.72 Mesopotamian myths formed part of
Kirk’s systematic investigation of myths in Myth: Its Meaning and Functions in Ancient
and Other Cultures (1970), where he analysed the nature of Sumerian and Akkadian myths.
He regarded Sumerian myths as emphasising narrative qualities by juxtaposing themes that
were originally independent. The combination of simple themes was promoted in the interest
of narrative development, which resulted in stories with a complex structure. The basic
themes are: fertility, human and agricultural, and the complex relations between them; the
plotting of men’s ultimate destiny in the underworld, and the evaluation of death in relation to
life and fertility; the creation and ordering of men, and their functions and place in the world;
and the description of the gods and their world before man was created. Akkadian myths, on
the other hand, are regarded as emphasising concerns about the social order, administration,
and justice, reflecting reduced emphasis on the spread of fertility and culture as well as the
limits of irrigation, and an increased concern with the nature and powers of kingship, the
relations between king and priest, and the organisation of the whole Mesopotamian world

69 Jung 1964.
70 Lévi-Strauss 1964, 71.
71 Kirk 1970, 252-261.
72 Kirk 1970, 280-285.
Myths and Ritual 35
under one supreme god and city. The descriptions of the Akkadian gods are characterised by
much less emphasis both on the aspects connected with natural forces and on their
attachment to a particular city. As Lambert has suggested, they became a more abstract
pantheon.73 In his study of the Gilgameß Epic, Kirk pointed out that the Akkadian version
of the Epic presents the contrast between nature and culture, observed in the roles of Enkidu
(nature) and Gilgameß (culture), in the journey from the city Uruk (culture) to the cedar
forest (nature), and in the deeds of the goddess Ißtar, who reversed the position of her
previous lovers as between nature and culture. A notable difference between the Akkadian
and Sumerian versions concerns the origin of Enkidu: although the Akkadian version
stresses his original character as nature (wild), as opposed to culture (civilised), none of the
Sumerian versions hints at his wildness. If this polarity is a constant feature of Akkadian
sources and is consistently absent in Sumerian ones, the important question is how this
distinction is to be interpreted. The issue is a delicate one and is beyond the scope of the
present study.
In addition to the function of mythic symbols and narrative in the origin of myths,
there is another major factor to be considered: ritual. Symbolic elements are observed both
in myth and in ritual, and in many cases ritual appears to act out myth. Ritual frequently
dramatises stories told in myths, which in turn explain and rationalise ritual performances.
There is no doubt that the two are related and there has been much debate concerning which
came first. Some anthropologists claim that myth is the primary factor and that ritual acts it
out, thus attributing the origin of ritual to myth. Others think that ritual is primary and that
myth is to be regarded as a commentary on it, thus attributing the origin of myth and religion
to ritual. The former try to seek in myths some real event based on historical fact and a
specific belief that was then formulated into ritualistic practices. The latter view is held
typically by Hubert and Mauss, who considered that the repetition of sacrifices culminated in
the creation of the concept of deity and thus that sacrifice engendered religion.74 Although
sacrifice is an important factor in religion, religious concepts should not be limited to the
range of notions arising from sacrificial activities alone, since this view cannot explain the
divine powers that are perceived behind various natural phenomena. Sacrifice may be seen
as a means by which humans can propitiate unseen entities and project their desires onto
them, but it is not convincing to attribute the origin of divine concepts to sacrificial acts.
Such concepts need to be seen in much broader contexts.
In anthropological studies, myth and ritual are regarded as interrelated, each acting as
a commentary on the other. In their relation to social organisation, Durkheim viewed rites as
reinforcing collective sentiment and social integration, emphasising the determining role of

73 Lambert 1960, 10ff.


74 Hubert & Mauss 1964.
36 Introduction

social structure in religious symbolism.75 Turner stressed the role of sensory and individual
experience, in which individual concerns are systematically related to public concerns, and
ritual symbols have meanings both private and unconscious.76 Girard, on the other hand,
suggested that the objective and the function of ritual is to keep violence outside the
community. His theory of sacrificial rites is based on the idea of a ‘surrogate victim
mechanism’, the proper re-enactment of which is regarded as the objective of ritual: that is,
to perpetuate and renew the effects of this mechanism.77 Girard emphasised that a victim put
to death in sacrificial ritual has the function of diverting violence from the community. This
social effect is the result of sharing among members of the community the same experience
and feeling arising from ritual: everyone is required to take part in the death of the victim by
virtue of their presence. Girard’s theory provides an interesting perspective for the analysis
of the social function of the Assyrian royal hunt (discussed in Chapter II), which sheds light
on different aspects from those assumed by other scholars who have written about the
symbolic meaning of the hunt.
Douglas’s research on ritual, published in Natural Symbols: Explorations in
Cosmology (1970), applied Bernstein’s theory on linguistics to the analysis of the function
of ritual. Her aim was to explain religious behaviour by treating ritual forms, like speech
forms, as transmitters of culture. As test cases, she examined tribal communities in Africa
and New Guinea and then extended these case studies into wider cultural areas, including
Christianity. She demonstrated that Bernstein’s theory provides clues to understanding the
original functions conceived in ritual activities practised not only in Africa and New Guinea
but also elsewhere. Bernstein argued that there are two fundamental types of communication
codes in speech: linguistic and sociological.78 The first arises in a small-scale, very local
social situation in which the speakers all have access to the same fundamental assumptions;
every utterance is pressed into service to affirm the social order. Speech in this case
exercises a solidarity-maintaining function closely comparable to religion. The second type
of communication code is employed in social situations where the speakers do not accept or
necessarily know one another’s fundamental assumptions. Speech then has the primary
function of making explicit unique individual perceptions, and bridging different initial
assumptions. The first category is called the ‘restricted code’, in which the speaker draws
from a much narrower range of syntactic alternatives, and these alternatives are more rigidly
organised. The second is called the ‘elaborated code’, in which the speaker selects from a
wide range of syntactic alternatives, which are flexibly organised; this speech requires
complex planning. Douglas regarded ritual as functioning as a restricted code that has many

75 Durkheim 1915.
76 Turner 1967.
77 Girard 1977, 89-118.
78 Bernstein 1972, 465-497.
Myths and Ritual 37
forms. It is embedded in the social structure, and such utterances have a dual purpose: on
the one hand, they convey information; on the other, they express the social structure,
embellishing and reinforcing it. The latter function is regarded as the dominant one, in which
the code enables a given pattern of values to be enforced and allows members of society to
internalise the structure of the society and its norms.
This theory enables us to look at Mesopotamian statements from a different angle. In
the field of Assyriology, such statements have, so far, been interpreted at face value. In the
Assyrian royal inscriptions, for example, military expeditions are always reported by the
king: ‘when the god Aßßur called me by name and commanded me to conquer the lands X
and Y’, ‘by the command of the gods A, B, C, and D, I marched to the cities X and Y’, or
‘with the help of the gods A and B, I destroyed the cities X, Y, and Z’. If we apply the
theory of the ‘restricted code’ to these statements, the underlying function of the utterance
can be revealed in relation to the social structure. These expressions convey information
about what actually took place and who was/were responsible for such activities; at the same
time, their function was to impose the Assyrian perception of social order, in which earthly
matters were overlooked and controlled by supernatural entities, with the king acting as their
vice-regent. Every time such statements were uttered, the social structure expressed by the
utterance was reinforced by revalidating the social paradigm.

§ 8. T e r m i n o l o g y

The discussion so far has referred to various theories and principles demonstrated outside the
field of Assyriology, so it is important to elucidate the meanings of the technical terms
mentioned and to distinguish those terms which refer to similar concepts. First, the concepts
of the primary and secondary subjects developed by Max Black in his discussion of
metaphor need to be noted, since they provide the most helpful means of articulating the
structure of symbolic statements and representations. In order to make the following
discussion comprehensive, the example I have chosen is ‘the king is a lion with a wide-open
mouth’. The primary subject (‘the king’) serves as the central theme of the expression, and it
remains the fundamental purpose of the statement. It creates the basic framework of the
metaphoric expression by guiding the reader first to the overall context. The primary subject
therefore plays a crucial role in establishing the frame of the metaphor. The secondary
subject (‘a lion’) acts as a system of implicative association for selecting and emphasising
particular features projected onto the primary subject. Its function is to create the focus of the
metaphor by evoking associated notions from the implicative complex. The focus of
metaphoric statements is identical with a symbol which is used in a broader sense to indicate
38 Introduction

the same concept applied to the secondary subject (the metaphoric focus). Both the focus
and the symbol serve as systems for evoking associated implications that are attributed to
something other than themselves. The function of the symbol is thus identified with that of
the metaphoric focus or the secondary subject. It is important to note that our mind allows
the primary and the secondary subjects to interact when we hear the metaphoric expression:
the qualities implied by the secondary subject are guided and influenced by the primary
subject, in which the qualities that can adjust to the contextual framework are selected and
emphasised, while others are suppressed. When these corresponding ideas are projected
onto the primary subject, the metaphor fulfils its purpose by articulating a specific feature of
the primary subject. This mechanism should be regarded as the fundamental aspect of
symbolic thought operations, enabling us to examine symbolic expressions, ancient and
modern, in the light of how the mechanism functions in the human mind.
Secondly, a pool of associated ideas which are readily evoked is called the
‘commonplaces’, in which an implicative complex acts as a provider of associated
implications and each association reflects the cultural value perceived in society. One of the
functions of the commonplaces is to present the social presuppositions on which cognitive
activities are based. The commonplaces are closely related to the norms and paradigms
deduced from the presupposed perceptions of the universe defined by cultural evaluation.
These norms and paradigms are normally not presented explicitly but are coherent in
statements expressed repeatedly in society. The expression of ideas that reflect the social
paradigm has the same effect as the restricted code, in which the aim of the speech is not only
to convey information but also to reinforce a set of social presuppositions. Both the
paradigm and the restricted code involve the process of thought operations within the narrow
range of assumptions that the society holds in common. Every time these ideas are
expressed, they confirm and reinforce the framework of the social order that promotes the
solidarity of that society.
Thirdly, the crucial role of certain types of mythological creature should be
summarised. The term pharmakos, used by Girard, is to be understood as the surrogate
victim which is put to death as a scapegoat. The nature of pharmakos is characterised by a
typical feature of symbol: it represents something other than its own real identity. To some
extent, the trickster shares features similar to those observed in pharmakos with its
ambivalent nature and its function as the source of social order, but the trickster often has a
greater significance in myth on account of its participation in the establishment of social
order.
Finally, the discussion takes up the opposed concepts ‘wild’ and ‘civilised’ in the
analysis of the underlying structure of Mesopotamian perceptions of the universe. The same
ideas are often expressed in terms of ‘nature’ and ‘culture’, or ‘untamed’ and
Terminology 39
‘tamed/domesticated’. Associations that developed from certain human activities, such as
agriculture and animal husbandry, must have influenced the way the world was perceived in
societies such as that of Mesopotamia, which had a long history of the expansion of human
intervention into the realm of nature. How the Mesopotamians related themselves to nature
and domestication is reflected clearly in their social paradigms, as well as in the formation of
the commonplaces which reflected Sumerian or Semitic cultural factors.

§ 9. Supernatural animals

Composite animals are often referred to as ‘monsters’ or ‘mythological animals’, for they
comprise body parts taken from more than one animal species. They are imaginary creatures
and are used extensively in religious contexts in association with deities, in architectural
contexts in which they have apotropaic functions, and in ritual contexts. Wiggermann
defined monsters as belonging to a class of supernatural beings that are neither gods nor
demons.79 They are not included in god-lists, but are supplied sporadically with the divine
determinative, and in art do not generally wear the horned crown of divinity. In addition,
their names do not occur in the list of the ‘evil spirits’ (utukk∑ lemn∑ti) and in medical texts
they are not demons of diseases. Their function when they occur in association with
anthropomorphic deities is to represent a part of divine nature or particular aspects of the
divine function.80 In this study, only Anzu and the Horned Lion Griffin are discussed in
terms of their divine associations. The aim is to elucidate the characteristic emphasised by
these animals in order to demonstrate the application of animals as symbolic agents in
Mesopotamian thought processes.
Astrology is another important area: supernatural animals play a major role in
Mesopotamian thought. The Mesopotamians perceived constellations of stars as images of
earthly objects projected onto the evening sky. They were given names, as were some
conspicuous fixed stars and planets. Several constellations were identified as animals. For
example, the Bull of Heaven (mul GUD.AN.NA: Taurus), the Lion (mul UR.GU.LA: Leo), the
Dog (mul UR.GI7 : Hercules), the She-Goat (mul Ù Z: Lyra), the Scorpion (mul GíR.TAB:
Scorpio), the Horse (mul ANÍE.KUR.RA: Cassiopeia?), the Stag (mul LU.LIM: Andromeda),
the Rooster (mul DAR.LUGAL: Lepus), and the Eagle (mul TI8 mußen: Aquila). Astrological
documents are available from the early second millennium, but the naming of stars and
constellations must have taken place much earlier. In the iconography of seals, for example,
astral representations such as the moon, the sun, and stars occur from prehistoric times, often

79 RlA 8, 231, §2.5.


80 RlA 8, 225-226, §2.1.
40 Introduction

together with the images of animals. The interpretation of these early pictorial depictions is
difficult; it can be assumed, however, that people in the prehistoric period would already
have identified the images of animals in the evening sky. Representations of winged
animals, such as a lion-headed eagle, depicted from the Uruk period onwards, or a winged
serpent in the Neo-Sumerian period, may have conveyed notions associated with the sky.
Porada, for example, sought the origin of Aquarius (mul GU.LA) in the iconography of the
naked bearded hero identified as la≈mu by Wiggermann, which goes back to the Jemdet Nasr
period.81 It is difficult, however, to determine whether artistic representations have celestial
implications. Animals and composite animals with wings may, in some instances, have been
intended to represent the constellations that ‘represent’ animal forms; in other instances, they
would not necessarily have been associated with ‘stars’. It can be said that when ‘wings’ are
attached to the animal’s or composite animal’s body, they represent the ability to fly that
implies association with the sky but not necessarily with astral bodies. The presence of astral
symbols in a scene — such as the ‘seven-dots’, the crescent, and eight-pointed stars which
are often observed in iconographical representations — may, to some degree, be intended to
create ‘celestial contexts’ within which the entire scene should be interpreted. However, on
other occasions the same astral bodies may have been drawn with the intention of
representing the presence of deities, suggested by their associated astral symbols. The
interpretation of such visual representations is inevitably difficult, because the intention and
the contexts of the scene, which are the crucial factors in determining the use of symbols, are
not clearly demonstrated.
Stars in the evening sky were perceived by the Mesopotamians as a group of
domesticated animals led by the moon god, acting as the shepherd or herdsman. Jacobsen
suggested that the moon god was seen as a cowherd — the perception of the god in
Sumerian hymns — driving his herd over the sky.82 An astrological text indicates that
planets were perceived as rams. Thompson speculated that the moon was a shepherd and
that stars were perceived as the celestial sheep.83 His idea was based on the common use of
the Akkadian word sup∑ru, meaning both ‘sheepfold’ and ‘lunar halo’. The fact that the
moon is the biggest astral body in the evening sky, its shape constantly changing, created a
contrast with other stars. The relationship between them was reflected in that of the shepherd
and his flock. The role of a shepherd was then projected onto the moon, seen as ‘leading a
flock of stars’. Thus, the shepherd represented the Mesopotamian view of celestial
phenomena in terms of animal husbandry — that is, as a familiar part of daily life — in
which the symbolic role of animals interacts with concepts projected onto the evening sky,
resulting in the creation of new ideas and perceptions.
81 Porada 1987, 279-291.
82 Jacobsen 1970, 25-26; cf. JCS 38, 152-166; Veldhuis 1991, 1.
83 Thompson 1900, xxiv-xxv.
Supernatural animals 41
The cultural role of animals in the context of astrology is undoubtedly important.
However, it is a large area in which much concerning the identification of ancient
constellations still has to be established. Not only are very few artistic sources available
which include the ancient pictorial image of the constellations, but also no textual sources are
known for the third millennium. The lack of evidence for an early stage of Mesopotamian
history creates difficulties for research in this field, and therefore this study does not deal
with animals used in astrological contexts.
CHAPTER I
Animals used in Royal Contexts

I.1. The lion

The association of royalty with the lion is common throughout history. It is often said that
the ‘lion’ is a symbol of the ‘king’,1 or that the association of the lion with the king is “a very
general phenomenon”.2 It featured typically in the Disney film ‘The Lion King’ which is the
story of a young lion who struggles to establish the rightful kingship of which he was
forcibly deprived by his uncle. Another example is found in the context of English royalty:
the crusader Richard I was called ‘Richard, the lion-heart’. He was also the first English
king to adopt the coat of arms showing the three gold lions or leopards of England, and this
emblem has been used by every dynasty since. The earliest evidence for using lions as a
heraldic device, however, comes from Geoffrey, count of Anjou, who, in the mid-twelfth
century, depicted rampant golden lions on his shield, for the first time in European history.
In ancient Mesopotamia, the royal association of the lion is well attested in numerous
lion metaphors applied to the king in both Sumerian and Akkadian texts as well as in artistic
evidence, a typical example of which is the royal lion-hunt scene depicted on the so-called
‘Assyrian royal seal’. It should be noted, however, that the description of the ‘lion’ as the
king is never found in Sumerian or Akkadian literature. It is only the ‘king’ who is
described in terms of the lion. This section examines the way in which Mesopotamian royal
imagery is rendered by metaphoric expressions of the animal and discusses what is intended
by the use of lion metaphors, in order to explain the symbolic role played by the animal in
royal contexts. The association of the two is most explicitly observed in royal metaphors. It
is, therefore, necessary to analyse each metaphoric expression and to examine the symbolic
mechanism in which a particular feature of the animal corresponds to that of the king. This
provides clues which not only clarify the function of the lion metaphor applied commonly in
royal symbolism; they also interpret the artistic representations of the animal occurring in
royal contexts, since there are normally no written explanations of why the animal is
represented in a particular scene.
The earliest possible royal association of the lion in art dates from the Late Uruk
period. A man dressed in a half-length skirt is shown hunting lions on the ‘Lion-Hunt Stele’
found in Uruk (fig. 1). The man is bearded and wears a padded belt around his waist and a

1 Olderr 1986, 81.


2 Cassin 1981, 355.
The lion 43
similar hairband around his head, and his hair is formed into a bundle at the back. The
representation of his hairstyle resembles that of a man wearing a ‘net-skirt’ depicted on the
obverse of the Blau Plaque (the so-called Blau Monuments), which is also dated to the Late
Uruk period. The figure of a bearded man wearing a skirt of a net-like material has been
commonly interpreted as a ‘ruler’.3 It should be noted, however, that this interpretation is not
confirmed by the text inscribed on the Blau Plaque.4 In later periods, the lion hunt was the
deed associated exclusively with the royal figure (see Chapter II.2 and II.3). It can,
therefore, be assumed that the man killing lions was perceived as important in society, but
whether it is acceptable to apply this later tradition to such an early example remains
unproved.
The association of the lion with the concept of kingship is observed in another
symbolic agent that can also be interpreted in the royal context on its own: the mace. Textual
evidence for the royal association of the mace is found in the earliest list of professional
titles.5 The first sign appearing in the list is a combination: ßita+gg i ß +nn á m , which is later
rendered “ßarru” in Babylonian lexical texts.6 n á m may signify ‘lord’ or ‘leader’ and
ß i t a +gg i ß is the combination known for ‘mace’, in which the ‘mace’ may be used as
metonymy to signify the king, in the same way that the English ‘crown’ is used for royalty.7
Lambert has suggested that the terminology used for the ‘ruler’ during the Jemdet Nasr
period may have been n á m . g i ß . ß i t a , which possibly means the ‘lord of the mace’.8 In
respect of the association of the mace with the lion, it is noteworthy that some mace-heads
from the third millennium B.C. are decorated with the motif of the lion. A mace-head of
Mesalim excavated at Girsu is engraved with the figures of lions (fig.. 2); the top bears a
representation of Anzu.9 Gudea’s mace-head also bears a representation of the lion’s head in
relief.10 The association of the mace with kingship is also observed in the Ninurta myth
‘Angim’, in which the god describes himself as the mace that is suitable for divine kingship:

3 For the representations of the ‘net-skirt’ in early glyptic art, see Amiet 1980, figs. 636-640, 642-649, 655-
656.
4 Both the Plaque and the Obelisk of the Blau Monuments bear the figures of humans and the inscription.
According to the latest translation, it is suggested that the texts concern the sale of a field: a man represented on
the Obelisk may be identified with the buyer and the other on the Plaque, who wears a ‘net-skirt’, with the
seller, whose name is ÙAÍÙUL.LÀL as recorded in the text. Despite his costume, he is never referred to as a
‘ruler’. See Gelb et al., 1991, 39-43.
5 ED Lu List A, MSL XII 4ff.; cf. Nissen 1986, 328, fig. 5.
6 MSL XII 93, 25-26, MSL XIV 248, 36-37; cf. Lambert 1981, 95-96; Nissen 1986, 329.
7 For early royal titles, see Hallo 1957, 3-48; for the difference between EN and LUGAL, see Jacobsen 1957,
107, note 32.
8 Lambert 1981, 91-97.
9 PKG 18, 78a & b. The inscription engraved over the figures of lions reads: “Mesalim, king of Kiß, temple
builder for Ningirsu, set this up for Ningirsu. Lugalßa-engur is the ruler of Lagaß”.
10 Parrot 1960, fig. 291.
44 Animals in royal contexts

I am the mace that destroys the ‘mountains’,11 fit for kingship on high
([g i ß ß i ]tt á k u r g u l . g u l . l a a n . t a n a m . l u g a l . l a t ú m . m e . e n )
(kak-ku mu-ab-bit ßá-de-e ßá-qu-ti ßá ana ßar-ru-ti ßu-lu-ku ana-ku)12

The mace is a weapon that can destroy objects and kill people, thus conveying notions of
destructive power. The concept of ‘power’ is attributed to the king in various contexts,
ranging from physical and martial ones to conceptual and political ones. In such notion-
evoking systems, the functional aspect of the mace, which smashes or crushes something, is
not separated from its symbolic aspect, which represents kingship. Its destructive features
correspond to properties of the lion that are represented symbolically on the mace-head by
the figure of the animal. At the same time, the associated implications evoked by the
equivalent qualities of the lion perceived in its nature and behaviour combine to emphasise
the destructive aspect of the mace. These fierce qualities are emphasised through the
interaction of notions evoked by both the mace and the lion, which are then projected onto
the concept of kingship (see below). Aspects of royalty are thus selected and organised by
these concrete metaphors in order to construct the image of the king.

Mace
(to smash, crush)

King Lion
(power, fierceness) (fierceness, destructiveness)

In addition to the mace, a bronze lance tip from Girsu is decorated with the figure of a
lion represented in profile (fig. 3),13 and above the lion there is an inscription which reads
“Lugal..., king of Kiß” (fig. 4).14 Here, again, three separate notions are interacting. The
function of a lance tip, to pierce, is projected onto the notion evoked by the lion, in which the
animal’s corresponding feature — such as piercing its prey with deadly fangs or with sharp
claws — is given prominence. This is again projected onto the concept of kingship, in order
to construct and organise our view of the qualities attributed to the king (see below). The
fact that the mace and the lance tip with the representation of a lion were perceived as
11 Akkadian version: ‘lofty mountains’.
12 Angim 165: Cooper 1978, 88.
13 Découvertes, pl. 5 ter, fig. 1 a-c.
14 Cooper 1986, 20, Ki 4.1.
The lion 45
appropriate emblems of kingship from the earliest stage of Mesopotamian history suggests
that the notions evoked by these weapons and the animal comprise an essential aspect of
kingship.

Lance Tip
(to pierce)

King Lion
(fierceness) (destructive fangs and claws)

The lion is written u r . m a ≈ (lit. ‘tall dog’) or pirig /ppirìg (written UG) in Sumerian
texts, in which pirig is regarded as the poetical equivalent of u r.ma≈.15 Labbu and n∆ßu are
common terms for the lion in Akkadian, in which labbu is a synonym of nƧu. Both p i r i g
and p irìg are equated with labbu/n∆ßu in lexical lists. It has been suggested that they may
represent different types of lion,16 but there is no archaeological evidence to support this
view. The association between the lion and kingship is also exemplified in personal names.
Personal names in which the king is identified with the lion are found from the Early
Dynastic to the Ur III periods:

L u g a l -pp i r i g 17 “the king [is] a lion”


Íarru-laba18 “the king [is] a lion”
L u g a l -pp i r ì g -bb à n d a 19 “the king [is] a fierce lion”
Í u l g i -pp i r i g 20 “Íulgi [is] a lion”

It is considered that the Sumerian word pirig originally encompassed the concept of power
and courage, and it is therefore regarded as appropriate for describing the nature of the lion.21
After the Ur III period, however, personal names of this type become rare; instead, names in
which the animal is identified with deities become more common. This may be seen as a part
of the general trend after the end of the third millennium, when the frequent use of animals in
the royal metaphor declined.

15 Heimpel 1968, 282.


16 Thureau-Dangin 1899, 11: no. 224, also cf. no. 182. There seem to have been two different types of lion in
the ancient Near East: one is bigger than the other. Cf. Cassin 1981, 362.
17 Deimel 1924, 40a, Fara (ca. 2550 B.C.).
18 Thureau-Dangin 1903, 112, Fara (ca. 2550 B.C.).
19 Limet 1968, 329 and 472, Nippur and Lagaß (Ur III).
20 Pettinato 1967, 188, no. 764 (Ur III).
21 Cassin 1981, 362-363.
46 Animals in royal contexts

Although the ‘lion’ itself is never described as the ‘king’ in Mesopotamian texts, the
‘king’ is frequently described in terms of the ‘lion’. The lion is associated with kingship by
means of both metaphors and similes. For example, in the Ur III period, the king Íulgi is
compared to the “lion, never failing in his vigour, standing firm in his strength” (pp i r i g
n a m . ß u l . b i . t a n u . k ú ß . ù n è . b a g u b . b a . m e . e n ),22 “lion with wide-open mouth” (pp i r ì g
k a . d u ≈ . ≈ a ),23 “vigour of a raging lion” (áá p i r ì g . u g ),24 “lion with awe-inspiring eyes”
(pp i r i g . i g i . ≈ u ß ),25 and “lion with the raised paw” (pp i r i g ß u . z i . g a ).26 Hammurabi is
described as a “fierce lion” (pp i r ì g . b à n d a ),27 and Lipit-Ißtar as the “supreme lion who has
no rival” (ppirig.zà.dib gaba.ri nu.tuku).28 In Akkadian, the metaphoric statement “I am
a lion” occurs in the royal annals of Adad-nirari II (la-ab-ba-ku)29 and Aßßurnasirpal II (lab-
ba-ku),30 and Esarhaddon is described as the “fierce lion” (lab-bu na-ad-ru).31 In these
metaphors, the ‘primary subject’ (A) is the king and the ‘secondary subject’ (B) the lion.
The simplest metaphoric statement, “A is B”, is found in personal names, listed above,
although, strictly speaking, a verb is not present in each original sentence. That is to say, in
Sumerian and Akkadian writing of these personal names, two words, the ‘king’ (or the name
of the king) and the ‘lion’, are merely juxtaposed without referring to their relationship.
However, scholars such as Tallqvist and Limet, who have specialised in Mesopotamian
personal names, have conventionally supplied an appropriate verb (“A is B”) or a preposition
(“A of B”) in the translation of personal names in order to make them comprehensible. In
one example, “the king [is] a fierce lion” (LL u g a l -pp i r ì g -bb à n d a ), a particular feature of the
secondary subject is specified as ‘fierce’, thereby evoking images and ideas of a ‘fierce lion’
which must have been common among people in Mesopotamia. For instance, in this
metaphor, a ‘fierce lion’ could be regarded as the animal attacking its prey in a terrifying
manner that overwhelms the onlooker with its power and cruelty. The notions evoked by the
secondary subject are projected onto the primary subject as a set of associated implications in
order to construct a corresponding system of implications around the primary subject. Any
traits attributed to the king that can be described in terms of such notions will be emphasised:
the king’s potential fierceness. Meanwhile, those other properties of the king which are not
relevant to such implications are pushed into the background. Therefore the secondary

22 Íulgi A 42: Klein 1981, 192; ZA 16, 66.


23 Íulgi C 1-2: Castellino 1972, 248: 1-2.
24 Íulgi C 10: Castellino 1972, 248: 10.
25 Íulgi A 3: ZA 16, 64; Klein 1981, 192: 3.
26 Íulgi C 11: Castellino 1972, 248: 11.
27 ZA 54, 51, 9.
28 Seux 1967, 437.
29 KAH 2, 84, 15.
30 AKA 265 i 33.
31 VS 1, 78, recto 24; cf. Seux 1967, 147-148.
The lion 47
subject, a ‘fierce lion’, acts as a ‘filter’ by emphasising some details and suppressing others;
in other words, the king is ‘seen through’ the metaphorical expression of the fierce lion, and
his image is constructed upon it.
In Mesopotamian literary texts, a metaphoric use of the animal tends to occur in
complex statements. Lion metaphors used in the Sumerian royal contexts listed above may
be interpreted on three levels, according to the degree of specification of particular animal
features. On the first level, metaphors comprise statements that evoke associated
implications based on naturalistic and concrete gestures or behaviour. The notions intended
to be evoked are those expected to occur immediately after such gestures or behaviour, which
threaten potential damage to the onlooker. In one of the Íulgi hymns, the lion metaphor
occurs in the first sentence as follows:

I am the king, I am the wild bull of extraordinary vigour,


I am the lion with wide-open mouth.
(ll u g a l m e . è n a m á . p à d . d a m e . è n p i r ì g k a . d u ≈ . ≈ a m e . è n )32

The structure of this statement is “A is B, A is C, A is D” respectively in each line above. “I


am the king” (“A is B”) is a straightforward expression which is to be understood literally,
whereas “I am the wild bull” (“A is C”) and “I am the lion” (“A is D”) must be taken as
metaphoric expressions. The first phrase establishes the identification of ‘I’ as the ‘king’,
and the second and third phrases can be seen as rendering properties of Íulgi as the king. In
other words, the function of these two phrases is to give prominence to particular aspects of
royal properties. Among the notions evoked by the animals, the wild bull metaphor
emphasises the ‘extraordinary vigour’ of the animal, a quality perceived in the animal,
whereas the lion metaphor renders the animal’s gesture observed visually. Notions evoked
by the wild bull may be understood as admiration and fear, dictated by the animal’s
behaviour, which represents overwhelming power and dynamism. Those evoked by the lion
may be associated with the terrifying sight of fangs, which can bite and deprive others of life.
The sight of the ‘wide-open mouth’ may also evoke notions related to the lion’s ‘roar’,
which inspires awe and fear with its extraordinary noise. In both cases, the awe-inspiring
properties of strong animals that engender fear of death are common factors. Another
metaphor used in the royal inscriptions of Íulgi, “lion with the raised paw” (pp i r i g
ß u . z i . g a ), belongs to the same category as “lion with wide-open mouth” (pp i r ì g
k a . d u ≈ . ≈ a ), for they both emphasise the poised moment which may be followed
immediately by fierce actions. That is to say, a ‘wide-open mouth’ may bite and pierce the
flesh of its prey, and a ‘raised paw’ may strike, scratch, catch, and smash its prey violently.

32 Íulgi C 1: Castellino 1972, 248: 1.


48 Animals in royal contexts

These metaphors, therefore, emphasise notions associated with the animal’s potentially fatal
attack on its prey.
The second level of metaphor comprises a statement that is observed naturally but
implies notions that are abstract; consequently, some areas of interpretation remain vague.
These metaphorical expressions are likely to involve a field of common understanding and
associated implications readily evoked by particular metaphoric statements. The metaphor
“lion with awe-inspiring eyes” (ppirig igi.≈uß) may evoke notions related to its fierce aspect
that are similar to those examined in the previous examples. However, the notions are not
evoked solely by the obvious features or gestures of the animal emphasised in the metaphoric
expression but by a conceptual means in which the notion is processed and constructed upon
basic common knowledge shared within the community. That is to say, the previous two
examples focus on the potentially fierce actions implied by the animal’s specific gestures, but
the metaphoric expression ‘awe-inspiring eyes’ is abstract, so that the reader is required to
construct a concrete image of this expression based on the ‘norm’ established by society.
Otherwise the metaphor is not effective. If the reader is totally ignorant of such
commonplaces, the metaphorical expression may not convey its intended meaning.
Bearing this risk in mind, an interpretation of the phrase can be undertaken by a
careful examination of the use of the original word occurring in this statement. The
Sumerian word used for ‘awe-inspiring’ is ≈ uß, an adjective that attributes to the subject or
the object a property inducing the feeling of ‘awe’. When this word occurs with the ‘aura’
m e . l á m : melamm∆ ), m e . l á m . ≈ u ß is translated as ‘awe-inspiring aura’. The original
(m
meaning of ≈uß is ‘reddish colour’, the colour of brick.33 It is, therefore, assumed that ≈uß
is associated with a luminous phenomenon, especially ‘fire’, which is reddish-yellow in
colour.34 This recalls the phenomenon of ‘cat’s eyes’, commonly observed in feline animals:
their eyes glow brilliantly in the reflection of light in darkness. Feline animals are nocturnal
and hunt at night, using their nocturnal vision. Encountering such flashing eyes at night
engenders instant fear in the human mind. This may be explained on two levels. In the first
place, it is indeed dangerous because the animal is looking for its prey, and the viewer of
such flashing eyes exposes himself to the danger of attack. In the second place, it is even
more frightening to encounter a feline animal at night, because the human is in the more
vulnerable situation, being unable to see in darkness, whereas his attacker can see him. Thus
the feeling of fear is greater and stronger at night than when encountering the animal during
the day. The metaphor “lion with awe-inspiring eyes”, by which the king Íulgi is described,
may be interpreted as the king possessing properties that induce fear and awe as strong as
those perceived when the lion is encountered at night. The concrete manner in which the

33 I am grateful to Professor Selz for this information.


34 Heimpel 1968, 309-310.
The lion 49
feeling of ‘awe’ and ‘fear’ is experienced in the presence of the lion under particular
circumstances is thus projected onto the primary subject through which our view of the
‘awe’ perceived in respect of Íulgi is specified and organised. A similar notion is expressed
in the royal epithet used by Lipit-Ißtar, in which the king is described as “hero with bright
eyes” (uu r . s a g i g i . k ù . g a ).35 The ‘bright eyes’ can be understood as a more explicit and
realistic expression of the flashing eyes of felines than ‘awe-inspiring eyes’.
The third level of metaphor comprises statements that focus on properties or elements
perceived in the animal. It refers to a notion that itself is deduced from a particular aspect of
the animal, such a notion being regarded as the essential factor which induces actions
admired by the onlooker. The metaphor “vigour of a raging lion” (áá pirìg.ug), describing
Íulgi, focuses on the underlying power of the enraged animal, and what is implied here is an
abstract notion or idea that is projected onto the properties of kingship. Another metaphor,
“lion, never failing in his vigour” (pp i r i g n a m . ß u l . b i . t a n u . k ú ß . ù ) , similarly emphasises
inexhaustible energy, a characteristic deduced from the animal through observation. Such
notions are systematically processed, resulting in the formation of abstract concepts. Thus
the focus of these metaphors is not ‘specification’ but ‘generalisation’ of ideas. Lipit-Ißtar’s
royal epithet “supreme lion who has no rival” (pp i r i g . z à . d i b g a b a . r i n u . t u k u ) also
belongs in this category, in which the supremacy observed in the mightiest lion is
emphasised in order to render the characteristic of the king who has no rival. Although
Sumerian lion metaphors in royal contexts are categorised on three levels in the discussion
above, it is often difficult to draw a clear distinction between each level, because this
classification depends on the degree of material specification within the examples occurring
in the same context, ranging from concrete expressions to more abstract and conceptual ones.
However, this classification undoubtedly helps to clarify the way in which Sumerian lion
metaphors are constructed, reflecting the framework in which the ideas are shaped and
established.
For the relationship of Sumerian animal metaphors with their contexts, we shall
examine one of the Íulgi hymns as a case study in order to understand how metaphors
function in relation to their contexts. The opening part of Íulgi hymn C contains three types
of lion metaphor, which occur as follows:

line 1) I am the king, I am the wild bull of extraordinary vigour,,


I am the lion (ppirìg ) with wide-open mouth.
2) I am Íulgi, I am the wild bull of extraordinary vigour,
I am the lion (pp i r ì g ) with wide-open mouth.
3) Like a rolling storm from on high, I coruscate afar.

35 Römer 1965, 35: 78.


50 Animals in royal contexts

4-7) (omitted)
8) As a faithful shepherd that delights in justice,
9) Of every evil the whip and cane I am indeed.
10) Vigour of a raging lion (áá piríg.ug), hero in battle, I have no rival.
11) I am fair-limbed, l i o n w i t h t h e r a i s e d p a w (pp i r í g ß u . z i . g a ), the
weapons of its [...]
12) I wield the mace of lapislazuli and the hatchet.
13) The grip of my fingers can break up knots and ties as with a knife.
14) In the affray of battle, I am the match for it.36

The first three lines construct a general image of the king by referring to the ‘wild bull’, the
‘lion’, and the ‘storm’, in which notions evoked by the two animals are articulated by such
statements as ‘extraordinary vigour’ and ‘wide-open mouth’. In this statement, three
separate expressions are juxtaposed, and each of them functions as the focus of the
metaphor. Notions evoked by each subject reflect upon each other; however, the reason for
selecting these metaphors in this statement remains unexplained, since there is no specific
context within which the metaphoric expression can be interpreted. The second lion
metaphor occurs in line ten, in which the metaphoric focus is not the ‘raging lion’ but the
‘vigour’ of the animal. As this expression is followed by a statement of a ‘supreme
hero/warrior’ in the same line, the intention of the metaphor is to organise our view of the
king, who is either identified with or perceived to possess such ‘vigour’ in martial contexts.
The third lion metaphor occurs in the next line, in which the visual image of the animal
raising its paw is juxtaposed with notions relating to the admirable appearance of (the king’s)
limbs. As the latter part of this statement seems to refer to a kind of weapon, though the text
is not complete at this point, the overall theme may be seen again within the martial context.
The lion metaphor occurring in this statement is intended to generate a picture in which the
king presents his well-built limbs, thereby evoking notions related to masculinity and
heroism in military contexts. Animal metaphors occupy a predominant place in these
phrases, in which what is emphasised by each expression is understood by examining the
particular notions represented in each context. However, when a metaphor is expressed out
of context, as in lines 1-3, it is not easy for us to interpret what was originally intended. The
metaphor may have sought to portray the general concept of kingship by juxtaposing these
ideas. Unless we have clues to the commonplaces of associative implications, such
meanings remain partly or largely vague.
Lion metaphors occurring in Assyrian royal inscriptions, on the other hand, seem to
be more closely connected with their metaphorical contexts. A metaphoric expression

36 Castellino 1972, 248: 1-3, 8-14.


The lion 51
describing Aßßurnaπirpal II as a ‘lion’ occurs in the middle of a catalogue of other attributes
of the king, which reads as follows:

At that time my sovereignty, my dominion, (and) my power came forth at


the command of the great gods. I am king, I am lord, I am praise-worthy, I
am exalted (var. powerful), I am important, I am magnificent, I am foremost,
I am a hero, I am a warrior, I am a lion, and I am virile.37

This statement can be interpreted as rendering properties of kingship attributed to


Aßßurnaπirpal II. The lion metaphor occurs in the latter half of the statement, in which other
juxtaposed qualities are ‘magnificent’, ‘foremost’, ‘hero’, ‘warrior’, and ‘virile’. All these
properties may be seen as the ‘filters’ which select, emphasise, suppress, and organise
features of the king or the concept of kingship. Phrases such as ‘I am king’, ‘I am
important’, and ‘I am a hero’, are understood literally. The statement ‘I am a lion’ is
different, however, because it cannot be understood literally. Thus the expression ‘I am a
lion’ stands out and contrasts with the remaining phrases. The function of the phrase ‘I am a
lion’ is the focus of the metaphor and the remainder is its frame. In this instance, the
function of the frame is to select some properties of the animal while neglecting others. That
is to say, among the lion’s traits, suitable features for the notions related to ‘lord’, ‘praise-
worthy’, ‘powerful’, ‘magnificent’, ‘foremost’, ‘virile’, ‘hero’, and ‘warrior’ are
emphasised, while other features that are not suitable in this context are ignored. For
example, the animal’s magnificent appearance, overwhelming power and virility, its
characteristics as a fierce fighter and prime predator, are highlighted, while other aspects,
such as the laziness of the males or lack of success in hunting, which are not appropriate in
this context, are suppressed. The features of the king are thus organised through the
interacting processes of semantic constructions, in which the emphasis of an animal
metaphor is dictated by its frame.
An example of precisely the same metaphorical expression, which, however,
signifies something slightly different according to the context, is found in a royal inscription
of Esarhaddon, in which the king is described as a ‘raging lion’ (labbu nadru). The first
example reads as follows:

Merciless, who has subdued the stiff-necked people, clothed in splendour,


fearless in battle, excellent warrior, merciless in battle, great mighty prince,
who holds the [foreign] rulers by their reins, a raging lion, the avenger of

37 AKA 264-265 i 31-33; Grayson ARI 2, 121, 540.


52 Animals in royal contexts

his own father.38

This statement occurs in a paragraph which lists the numerous royal titles of Esarhaddon.
Each title expresses qualities related to the notions of being merciless and brave in battle,
articulated and emphasised in phrases such as ‘excellent warrior’ and ‘great mighty prince’.
The lion metaphor occurs after the statement of the king’s dominant status vis-à-vis other
rulers, and immediately before he calls himself the ‘avenger of his own father’. The latter is
to be understood from the historical fact that Esarhaddon avenged the murder of
Sennacherib, his father, who was assassinated in a conspiracy by a group of people
including one of his sons. The fact that the ‘raging’ aspect of the lion emphasised in this
metaphor gives prominence to the ‘mercilessness’ and ‘fearlessness’ attributed to the king
and, as the avenger of his father, his anger and his cruelty to the murderers are effectively
evoked and emphasised. It is ‘rage with hatred’ that is focused on in this statement, and they
are directed mercilessly at the murderers who tried to usurp the throne. The second example
reads as follows:

Who conquers his enemy, who vanquishes his foe.


The king whose walking is a Deluge and his acts a raging lion.
Before he comes (lit. before him), it is a city, after he leaves (lit. after him),
a ruin hill.39

Notions emphasised in this passage are the devastating and destructive aspects of the king in
the attack launched against enemies in the context of a military campaign. The lion metaphor
in this statement occurs in the second half of the metaphoric expression; the statement of a
‘Deluge’, describing the king’s advance, is juxtaposed with it. This set of metaphoric
expressions is followed by the statement that a city will be turned into a ruin by the advance
of the king’s army. A notion emphasised in the ‘Deluge’ is selected from the corresponding
features implied by the advance of the king’s troops; the way in which his army proceeds is
explained in terms of the imagery evoked by a devastating flood consuming and covering the
land. At the same time, the devastation of a conquered city is metaphorically expressed in
terms of the ‘acts of a raging lion’, in which the damage inflicted by the king’s troops would
be uncontrollable, since the king’s behaviour is similar to that of the enraged lion. It is,
therefore, the ‘devastating effect’ that is the focus of this metaphorical expression, which can
also be brought about by the Deluge or by the enraged animal. Features emphasised by
exactly the same metaphoric expression, ‘a raging lion’, are thus variable according to the

38 Borger Esarh. 96, §65: 20-25.


39 Borger Esarh. 97, §65: rev. 11-13.
The lion 53
context, in which the notions expressed before and after the metaphoric focus select the
corresponding properties and thereby organise our view of the primary subject, i.e., the
king’s military activities. This analysis of the same metaphoric expression conveying
different implications according to the context reveals the importance of understanding the
symbolic mechanism that lies behind the operation of symbols.
The symbolic implications evoked by the lion metaphor in the context of martial
heroism are also expressed in similes, in which the furious aspects of the warrior king are
focused and ‘seen through’ an enraged lion:

In the anger of my (Sargon II’s) heart I set in motion the mighty armies of


Aßßur and, raging like a lion, set out to conquer these lands.
(ina uggat libbija ummånåt Aßßur gapßåti adk∆ma labbiß annadirma ana
kaßåd måtåti ßâtina aßtakan pan¬ja)40

I (Esarhaddon) became e nraged like a lion, my mood became furious.


(labbiß annadirma iππari≈ kabatt¬)41

Our view of the Assyrian king in the military context is thus organised through a concrete
image of the ‘raging lion’, which functions as a ‘filter’ to construct a corresponding system
of implications about the warrior king. At the same time, the king’s qualities and acts in this
context are projected onto the field of ‘symbolic language’ expressed in terms of the lion: the
anger of the animal interacts with the corresponding property of the king that is directed at
his enemies. This notion may have been experienced originally through the lion’s behaviour
in fierce fight. Extraordinary aggressiveness observed in a raging lion would generate
instinctive fear in the human mind and was perceived as an ideal image for the king as the
supreme warrior.
One of the properties attributed to the king is his ‘fierce’ aspect, relating to the
notions of ‘mercilessness’ and ‘fearlessness in battle’.42 The concept of fierceness is
expressed as b à n . d a in Sumerian and ekdu in Akkadian. The king is often described as
having this property, which is also typically observed in the lion and the wild bull. For
example, the name of the Early Dynastic king Lugalbanda (ll u g a l . b à n . d a ) juxtaposes the
notion of the king with that of fierceness, meaning ‘the king [is] fierce’. Hammurabi is
described in his bilingual text as the one ‘who is fierce of superiority’ ([bb à n . d a
g i r i x . z a l . e . n ]ee : e-ki-id mu-t[ a-al-lu-tim ]). 43 Adad-nirari I, Tukulti-Ninurta I, and

40 Winckler Sar., pl. 31: 40.


41 Borger Esarh. 43 i 57.
42 Winter 1983, 24, note 33.
43 ZA 54, 51-52.
54 Animals in royal contexts

Shalmaneser II are all given the same epithet ‘fierce’ (ekdu),44 and Shalmaneser III is ‘the
fierce and merciless king’ (ßarru ek-du la pa-du-u).45 Moreover, Tiglath-pileser I kills lions
with his ‘fierce’ mind (ina libb¬ja ekdi),46 and Sargon II describes his ‘fierce heroism’
(quråd¬ja ekd∑te).47 This adjective is also applied to particular animals, such as lions: for
example, Íamßi-Adad V killed ‘three fierce lions’.48 Another common animal to which this
quality is attributed is the wild bull, discussed in the next section of this chapter. The
characteristic of the king’s ‘fierceness’ as experienced by his enemies thus corresponds to
the similar quality in the lion. At the same time, the concept of kingship is seen through
those properties perceived in a ‘raging lion’ and ‘fierce lion’, in which the concrete notions
evoked by a particular state of the animal are interacting with the abstract idea of kingship. In
other words, the latter is projected onto these concrete notions, from which the concept of
kingship is constructed.
The notions expressed in lion metaphors and similes in relation to kingship are also
represented symbolically in a special type of seal impression, the ‘Assyrian royal seal’. Seal
impressions of this type are found on various bullae from Neo-Assyrian sites: they show a
circular stamp impression with a motif of the king killing a lion. The earliest dated example
comes from the reign of Shalmaneser III.49 They can be divided into two types, according to
the motif represented on the seal: the first type shows the king fighting a rampant lion, and
the second type only a figure of a lion. Such motifs are often encircled by an inscription
(fig. 5) or by a guilloche border (fig. 6), and some of them are further encircled by texts
inscribed on bullae. According to the inscription on the border of the impression,50 the seal
is likely to have been used to mark and authenticate the property of the king’s palace. The
goods to which these bullae bearing the royal seal impressions were attached were mostly
tribute or taxes sent by cities and people owing such duties. Inscriptions around the
impression record the content, origin, and date of the package secured, and in some cases
they give the names and titles of the individual monarchs.51 Although it is not clear who
could hold and use these ‘royal’ seals, the motif represented on these seals was undoubtedly
recognised as the mark of royal authority.
The motif represented on the first type of ‘royal’ seal shows the bearded king
stretching out his left arm to grasp the top of the head of a lion which faces him (figs. 5-6).
The king’s right hand holds a dagger that has been plunged into the lion’s chest. The lion is
44 KAH 2, 143 rev. 3; KAH 2, 60: 22, 61: 10; KAH 1, 30: 2.
45 WO 3, 152: 9-10, 154: 3-4.
46 AKA 86 vi 77.
47 TCL 3, 255, 224.
48 3 UR.MAÙ.MEÍ ekd∑te : 1R 31, iv 3.
49 Sachs 1953, no. 1.
50 Millard 1965, 13-14: the inscriptions on these seals read: “Property of Aßßurbanipal, king of the world,
king of Assyria, son of Esarhaddon, king of Assyria, son of Sennacherib, king of Assyria”.
51 Millard 1978, 70.
The lion 55
shown rampant, raising its right front leg behind its head, ready to strike, its left front paw
hanging close to the king’s right thigh; its mouth is wide open, and its tail curls upwards.
The representation of the second type, in which the figure of a lion alone is shown, is slightly
different (fig.7). The lion is not rampant but stands horizontally with three legs firmly set on
the ground, its right front leg stretches forward, and its mouth is wide open. It is noteworthy
that the lion in both types is shown with its right front paw raised and its mouth wide open.
The features presented here by the lion “with the raised paw” (pp i r i g ß u . z i . g a ) and “with
wide-open mouth” (pp i r ì g k a . d u ≈ . ≈ a ) have been discussed above as one of the animal
metaphors attributed to the Ur III king, Íulgi, where they are classified as the first level of
metaphor, evoking notions related to an anticipated reaction by the animal immediately after
the posture presented in this metaphoric expression. The posture of the lion on the Assyrian
royal seals can be seen as the visual representation of such metaphors, which functions in the
same way as metaphorical statements by evoking notions related to the damage and harm that
the animal has the potential to cause. The presence of the king in the scene of the first type
indicates that this ‘metaphoric text’ is to be read in the context of kingship, thereby evoking
associated implications arising from the use of the lion-metaphor attributed to the king. The
king himself is as fierce as the lion that represents maximum danger, so that he is capable of
harming and killing anyone, even the strong and enraged lion shown in the scene. The
king’s fierce and heroic aspects as a ‘warrior’ are explained and embodied in this way by the
lion, whom he faces and kills. The king’s action and quality are thus ‘seen through’ the
posture of the lion, which functions as a metaphoric medium to evoke implications from
associated commonplaces.
The second type of royal seal, on the other hand, may be seen as representing the
king’s properties as corresponding to what is emphasised by the posture of the lion. In this
case, the lion depicted in the scene may have been intended to act as a metaphorical substitute
for the king, in which the nature of the king is projected onto the features emphasised by the
lion. The lion represents the king in order to organise our view of the king, who is to be
seen as just as fierce as the lion that is about to strike with a raised paw and to bite and pierce
its enemy with sharp fangs. The pictorial representations of the animal, which are intended
to be ‘read’ in a royal context, thus achieve their effect by presenting symbolic agents in a
concrete form, and such properties, explained in terms of the metaphoric representation, are
intended to interact with the absent primary subject, i.e., the king. The viewer would
recognise the context of such seal impressions as ‘royal’ from the particular circular shape of
the seal impression as well from the motif represented in the scene, even though the figure of
the king is not rendered explicitly.
The identification of the king with the lion is observed in certain symbolic texts
written during the Neo-Assyrian period, in which the usual scripts were replaced by ‘secret’
script (Geheimschrift) and by an elaborate form of cryptography (the so-called ‘Assyrian
56 Animals in royal contexts

hierographs’). The ‘secret’ script is found in fragmentary texts from the temple library at
Aßßur; the texts record omens and each line is provided with a commentary that explains its
implicit meaning. In one text, UG (lion) and UR.IDIM (howling dog/jackal) are explained as
LUGAL (the king), indicating that these animal names were used as the secret terms for the
king.52 The so-called Assyrian hierographs employ designs, such as a stylised plant and
animals, as direct/indirect pictographs and puns. Three pairs of glazed-brick panels
excavated at Khorsabad, outside the shrines of Sin, Íamaß, and Nabû, show the figure of the
king, followed by a lion, a bird, a bull, a fig-tree, a plough, and another human holding a
spear (fig. 41). These figures are interpreted as “Sargon, great king, king of the land of
Assyria”;53 the figure of a lion is believed to represent LUGAL/ßarru (the king). It is
noteworthy that the figure of a lion is engraved before the name of Sargon II on vessels of
stone and glass, where the animal may also represent the royal title.

52 RlA 3, 186: Geheimschrift 4.


53 Finkel & Reade 1996, 244-278.
The bull 57
I.2. The bull

References to bovine animals occur in contexts related to royalty, where features and
qualities of the king are expressed in terms of the animals. There are various terms in both
Akkadian and Sumerian which are applied to different species of bovine animals according
to their sex and their function. Before discussing the associations with royalty, it is
necessary to sort out some basic terminology. In both languages, the wild species are clearly
distinguished from the domesticated ones, and the latter are divided into different categories
and named according to their function in dairy farming.54 In Sumerian, am (wild bull)55 and
s ú n (wild cow) are used to describe the undomesticated wild bovine animal ( Bos
primigenius), male and female respectively. However, there is a suggestion that s ún may be
used in the sense of ‘wild bull’ in some contexts.56 In the case of the domestic species, g ud
(=ggu4) represents the male domestic bovine animal, either castrated (ox) or complete (bull),
but it is also used to describe cattle in general, which seems to be similar to the application of
‘ox’ as a general term in English. Another term, n indá, describes the breeding bull. In the
case of the female domestic bovine animal, á b is commonly used to represent the cow, and
ß i l a m appears as its poetical form, together with its variation of i m . m a . a l in Emesal (a
Sumerian dialect, meaning ‘genteel speech’, often used by women). The calf is represented
by amar, which may also refer to any young animal. In Akkadian, the wild bull is r¬mu and
the wild cow takes its feminine form, r¬mtu. The Akkadian equivalent of the Sumerian g ud
is alpu, which represents a domesticated bull or ox used for ploughing and as a draught
animal (gg u d . a p i n 57 ; g u d . g i ß = alap n¬ri: a yoke ox). lû (liu ) is another Akkadian
equivalent of gud; however, this Akkadian reading can also be applied to p irig (the lion) in
some lexical references.58 ÍËru also appears in a lexical list equated with alpu and lû.59 For
the cow, burtu, littu (l¬tu), and ar≈u all appear to be the equivalent of the Sumerian á b .
Identifying the differences in nuance between these Akkadian terms reveals certain
difficulties. An Akkadian lexical commentary explains that the Sumerian term á b represents
a young cow which has not yet calved (ar≈u TUR-tú); on the other hand, áb.al and áb.ma≈
represent a fully grown cow which has calved (b∑rtu: ar≈u GAL). The text reads as follows:

54 For the discussion on the plough animal, see Heimpel 1995, 71-171.
55 For the discussion concerning am occurring in the list of domesticated animals, see PSD, ‘A’-part 3, under
am A, p. 184.
56 Klein 1981, 113-114. It is not known, however, why s ún was used in some contexts where am would
have been more appropriate. A personal name, s ún-ama-mu (‘The wild cow [is] my mother’), establishes that
the sex of this animal is undoubtedly female. Cf. Selz 1995, 180, note 817.
57 The Akkadian reading for this Sumerian term is not clear; cf. CAD, ‘A’-part 1, 368, 1-b-2’.
58 Cf. CAD, ‘L’, 227, under lû A: lexical section.
59 CT 18, 13 IV 8, MSL VIII/2, 74, 37: ßu-ú-ru = al-pu , lu-ú.
58 Animals in royal contexts

áb is a young cow which has not calved;


áb.al.ma≈ is burtu: a fully grown cow which has calved
(ááb // ar-≈u TUR-tú ßa la tu-lid-du
áb.aal.ma≈ // bur-tú ar-≈u GAL ßá tu-lid-du )60

In this statement, particular adjectives are added to ar≈u in order to distinguish the young
(TUR-tú ) from the adult (GAL) cow; therefore ar≈u must be a general term for ‘cow’,
regardless of its age or experience of giving birth. The term burtu is explained as a ‘grown
cow’ (ar≈u GAL) which has calved. In the case of littu, the term represents not only ‘cow’
but also any domesticated bovine animal of either sex and of any age; it has a plural form
liåtu/lâtu (áá b . ≈ i . a ). This confusion seems to be similar to the common use of ‘cows’ in
colloquial English to refer to cattle in general. The young calf is called b∑ru regardless of
sex, but when it appears in literature bËru frequently refers to a male calf or a young bull just
before full maturity. M¬ru also represents the young bull and its feminine form, m¬rtu, the
cow; b¬ru refers to the bull for breeding or the young calf; the feminine form does not exist.
In a Sumerian personal name from Lagaß, the identification of the king with a
domestic bull is expressed as follows:

L u g a l - g u d - m a ≈ 61 ‘the king [is] a mighty bull’

Among the royal personal names of the Ur III and Isin-Larsa periods, the animal name
combined with a particular deity is worth noting. For example, the name Amar-Sin
(d A m a r - d s ú ’ee n a ), the Ur III king, means ‘a calf of (the moon god) Sin’, where ‘a calf’
represents the king Amar-Sin, the name by which he is called. The plausible identification of
the king with ‘a calf of Sin’ is also suggested by a story told in an incantation text for
childbirth which was composed for Íulgi’s wife, whose name was Geme-Sin, on the
occasion of a difficult delivery.62 As a fierce young bull (m¬ru/b∑ru ekdu), Sin falls in love
with a cow and impregnates her. This cow is called Geme-Sin and, when it is born, the calf
is named ‘b∑r ßizbi’ (aamar.ga), meaning ‘suckling/milk calf’. The name Geme-Sin is thus
held in common by the cow of Sin and the wife of Íulgi. If Amar-Sin was in fact the son
born at the time this incantation was composed, it suggests that Íulgi is metaphorically
identified with the god Sin in this context. The kings of the Ur III period were deified,
following the tradition started by Naram-Sin in the Akkadian period. The name of Amar-Sin
may be interpreted, in this light, as expressing the notion that his father, Íulgi, embodied the
god Sin, the chief deity of the city of Ur, and Amar-Sin himself, being the son of a deified
60 Rm 307: 7ff. (Alu comm.); cf. MSL VIII/1, 63-66.
61 Limet 1968, 463 (Lagaß).
62 Stol 1983, 30; Veldhuis 1991.
The bull 59
king, was consequently seen from his birth as possessing a divine property. This tradition of
naming the royal figure to reflect the notion of the god Sin, who is expressed metaphorically
in terms of the bull, seems to have been taken over by two kings of the following dynasties.
Amar-Sin’s equivalent name in Akkadian, B∑r-Sîn (‘a calf [of] Sin’), was used by a king of
the Isin dynasty, and the wild bull combined with Sin, R¬m-Sîn (‘a wild bull [is] Sin’), is
another royal name in the Larsa dynasty. The combination of bovine animals with Sin may
have been strictly limited to the names for royalty, since it is not found in private names, thus
suggesting that the bovine animals associated with the moon god have a special significance
relating to deified kingship during these periods.
Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the bovine animals are metaphorically used to
describe the family background of the royal figures. Íulgi, for example, describes his own
legitimate family background in terms of a ‘calf’ born to a ‘white cow’ and a ‘breeding bull’:

Like a rightful progeny, begotten by a breeding bull, the king, born in the
cow pen, the calf of a white cow, with thick neck, reared in the cow pen.63
(aa . z i g u d . n i n d a a . r u . a . g i m l u g a l á b . t ù r . e t u . d a
amar.áb.babbar.ra gú.peß.ßa tùr.ra bulùg.ga me.èn)

In another similar statement, Íulgi calls himself a ‘calf’:

The calf, born in the rich enclosure64


(aa m a r t ù r . ≈ é . g a l . l a t u . d a )

When the king is described in the context of ‘rightful progeny’ in order to justify his family
background as suitable for succeeding to the throne, the bovine animals occurring in the
metaphoric statement are domestic: a calf (aamar) born to the cow (ááb) and the breeding bull
(ggud.ninda). This may appear to contradict the fact that the king is elsewhere described as
and identified with the wild bull (aa m ). In the use of domestic bovine animals in this royal
context, however, the emphasis is placed exclusively on a structural parallel between the
royal lineage and pedigree cattle. That is to say, a calf is seen as an heir to the throne, and its
parents (i.e., the breeding bull and the cow) as the king and queen. The ‘cow pen’, in which
the calf was born, is here particularly mentioned perhaps in order to refer to the royal
constitution. Thus the two contexts are expressed in parallel, one by the calf-metaphor and
the other by royal legitimacy, and they are effectively integrated in the statement “the king,
born in the cow pen” in the above example. The notion of legitimate family background is

63 Íulgi C 4-6: Castellino 1972, 248.


64 Íulgi D 3: Klein 1981, 72.
60 Animals in royal contexts

therefore rendered by the metaphoric expression of a ‘calf’ regarded as being of a good line.
In this particular context, the king is symbolically identified with a domestic animal, and the
corresponding notions evoked by the animal with regard to this context are given
prominence.
In royal epithets, various bovine terminologies describe the different aspects and
functions of the king. Among them, the wild bull occurs most frequently in both Sumerian
and Akkadian texts. The king Íulgi is described as a “wild bull of extraordinary vigour”
(aa m á . p à d . d a ),65 “born to be a great wild bull” (aa m . g a l . ß è t u . d a ),66 and “I am like a
rising/rampant wild bull, born to be a great wild bull, adorned with splendid curved horns”
(aa m . z i a m . g a l . ß è t u . d a . g i m s i . m u ß . g ú . n u . m e . è n ).67 The first example is juxtaposed
with the lion metaphor discussed in the previous section (“lion with wide-open mouth”). In
this statement, the metaphorical expression “wild bull with extraordinary vigour” forms an
implicative complex together with the lion metaphor, to organise our view of the king. By
applying such a complex to the primary subject, the king, particular kingly traits that
correspond to the notion expressed by the animal metaphors are emphasised. The
metaphoric expression of the wild bull occurs at the beginning of the hymn, together with
other statements expressed in terms of the ‘lion’ and a ‘rolling storm’, the structure of which
is seen as the primary subject (the king), accompanied by three different secondary subjects
(the wild bull, the lion, and the rolling storm) that are apparently unrelated. It is difficult to
determine the way in which the wild bull expression is used as a focus of metaphor in this
statement, since the frame of the metaphor is entirely absent. The second example, “born to
be a great wild bull”, is followed by another lion metaphor, “the lion standing firm in its
strength, the mighty heir of the hero Sin”.68 In this example, the king “born to be a great
wild bull” may be seen in relation to the expression “the mighty heir of Sin”, the god who is
often expressed in terms of the bovine animals. The juxtaposition of the two metaphoric
expressions of the wild bull and the lion is probably intended to emphasise the ‘wild’ aspects
represented by two wild animals that would evoke notions such as ‘strength, fierceness, and
independence’. These properties are attributed to the king, endowing him with the ability to
act like a strong wild animal, especially in a military context. The third example, “I am like a
rising/rampant wild bull, born to be a great wild bull, adorned with splendid curved horns”,
is preceded by the statement “against people of foreign lands, which are hostile to the god
Nanna, you hurl angry words”,69 and is followed by the statement “you are a chariot, a
wagon, which is set on the road”,70 so the context is understood as that of military activities.
65 Íulgi C 1-2: Castellino 1972, 248.
66 Íulgi D 299: Klein 1981, 82.
67 Íulgi D 29: Klein 1981, 72.
68 Íulgi D 299-300: Klein 1981, 82.
69 Íulgi D 28: Klein 1981, 72.
70 Íulgi D 30: Klein 1981, 72.
The bull 61
The king’s acts in the battle are here expressed and reflected in those of the wild bull: ‘a
rising wild bull’ may convey the image of the king rising to lead his army to battle, and
‘splendid horns’ may imply the king’s military helmet, though there is no archaeological
evidence of Íulgi wearing a helmet adorned with bull’s horns, the symbol of a deity. The
surviving evidence of this sort is the representation of Naram-Sin depicted on the so-called
Stele of Victory. Because the Ur III kings, including Íulgi, were also deified, the concept of
divine kingship may have been evoked by referring to the ‘horns’ of the animal in the
metaphorical statement.
After the Ur III period, the Akkadian bull metaphors occur as follows: in the Isin
dynasty, Ißme-Dagan is described as a “goring wild bull” (aam ù.na [ggub]..ba: ri-i-mu kad-
ru)71 and Lipit-Ißtar as a “wild bull who crosses the border” (aa m d í b . b a ).72 In the Old
Babylonian period, Iahdum-Lim, the king of Mari, is described as the “strong king, a wild
bull of the king” (ßarrum gaßrum r¬m ßarri)73 and Hammurabi’s warlike aspect is expressed
as a “goring wild bull who attacks the enemies” (r¬mum kadrum munakkip zå’ir¬).74 Two
aspects should be focused on. First, a particular action of the animal, ‘goring’, is expressed
in two of the examples. The ‘goring wild bull’ which describes Ißme-Dagan occurs in a
sentence the rest of which is difficult to interpret.75 The example describing Hammurabi, on
the other hand, provides a clue to its context. The act of goring is apparently the most
aggressive attack the animal can make, and anyone who is gored may well be seriously
injured by the animal’s sharp horns. Such aggressiveness and the ability to inflict damage on
others are directed against the enemies in this statement, in which the image of the king
hurling away and scattering his enemies is rendered in terms of the goring wild bull. This
metaphoric expression is intended to work by evoking notions concerning the king’s military
activity in parallel with the literal effect of the animal’s action. At the same time, the animal’s
aggressive properties are displayed in the act of goring, and would relate themselves to the
notions of ‘fierceness’ attributed to the nature of kingship. Similar ideas about the king’s
heroic aspect are also expressed in terms of the “wild bull who crosses the border”, in which
the image of the king advancing against the enemy land may be represented symbolically by
the animal’s action. Secondly, the ‘strong’ aspect of the animal is emphasised in the
metaphor describing Iahdum-Lim, in which “a wild bull of the king” is used metaphorically
to interact with the notion expressed by the ‘strong king’. These ‘strong’ properties,
perceived in the animal, are also emphasised in the description of Íulgi discussed above, in
which the degree of its ‘vigour’ is rendered as ‘extraordinary’. ‘Vigour’ is an invisible

71 Römer 1965, 52: 251.


72 Römer 1965, 30: 9.
73 Syria 32, 6 and 13: ii 5.
74 CH iii 8; duplicates RA 45, 73: ii 28; KAV 190, col. B. 1; KAR 306: rev. 2.
75 Cf. Römer 1965, 72-73, notes 399-400.
62 Animals in royal contexts

quality, which can manifest itself in various forms according to particular contexts.
Therefore these metaphors deal with abstract notions perceived in the animal, in contrast with
more concrete expressions of the animal’s aggressiveness represented by its goring action.
In the case of the domesticated bull used in royal contexts, similar expressions are
found in the Íulgi hymns: for example, the king is described as a “bull on the march to its
mountains” (ggud kur.bi.ßè)76 and a “rampant bull, who was born to be a great beast” (gg u d
á . g u r 8 pirig.gal.ßè tu.da).77 They can be understood as rendering the king’s activities in
military contexts in terms of the animal. Another metaphor, a “great bull with
splendid/colourful limbs” (gg u d . g a l á . g ú . n u ),78 on the other hand, renders the animal’s
physical appearance, evoking notions associated with certain aspects of the animal’s
properties. This metaphoric expression may also be intended to evoke the visual image of
the king’s well-made limbs, where notions such as strength, vigour, masculinity, and beauty
of colour are expressed and constructed by the image of the bull in parallel. In short, both
the wild and the domesticated bull metaphors occurring in royal contexts can be understood
as comprising three different patterns of thought-evoking systems: visual, active (action-
related), and conceptual. Each of the systems works as a ‘filter’ in order to construct a
corresponding image of the king. The visual system may be expressed typically by
metaphors such as a “(wild bull) adorned with splendid curved horns” and “great bull with
splendid/colourful limbs”, in which the perception of the specific appearance of the animal
provokes admiration and associated notions that can also be perceived visually in the primary
subject. The active (action-related) system can be observed in metaphors such as “goring
wild bull”, “wild bull who goes forward” and “bull on the march”, in which the actions of
the animal are expressed and emphasised in order to evoke corresponding active properties
attributed to the king in specific contexts. The conceptual system may be represented by
metaphoric statements such as “wild bull of extraordinary vigour”, “born to be a great wild
bull”, and “wild bull of the king”, in which particular properties identified in the animal are
emphasised in order to attribute corresponding qualities to the king. In this system, however,
an emphasised feature may or may not be explicit in each statement, so that in some cases
there is a wider vague area lacking the specification of the meaning intended, which may be
seen as a major difficulty in any attempt to interpret the meaning of the metaphor.
In some cases, s ú n (lit. ‘wild cow’) is used in the sense of ‘bull’ to describe the
leader of bull/cow groups.79 This term occurs among the royal epithets of the king Íulgi,

76 Íulgi B 343: Castellino 1972, 64.


77 Íulgi D 6: Klein 1981, 72.
78 Íulgi D 1-2: Klein 1981, 72.
79 Cf. Heimpel 1968, 122-124.
The bull 63
where the term presumably means the ‘wild bull’ rather than the ‘wild cow’, if we regard the
gender of the secondary subject as coherent with the primary one:80

The wild bull (lit. wild cow) of great power, a bull of indomitable vigour.
(ss ú n u s u . g a l . g a l g u d á . n u n . g i 4 . a )81

The young wild bull (lit. young wild cow) who stands (firm) in his youthful strength.
(ss ú n . t u r n a m . ß u l . b a g u b . b a ) 82

Heimpel suggested that these notions focus on the leadership aspect of a particular bull or
cow that leads the herd. It is said that older bulls tend to lead bull groups, and cow groups
are led principally by older cows,83 which may have been perceived as an ideal symbol for
leadership. In the example above, the “wild bull (lit. wild cow: s ú n ) with great power” is
immediately followed by another metaphor, “bull (ggud) of indomitable vigour”, to explain
and emphasise the first metaphor. This phrase may be interpreted as reflecting the notion of
a bovine leader that goes at the head of the herd, displaying his power and firm leadership.
Although both wild and domesticated bulls occur in Sumerian royal epithets, only the
wild species serves this purpose in Akkadian. The Sumerian terms a m and g u d are both
used to describe the king, whereas in Akkadian only r¬mu (‘the wild bull’) is used; alpu
(‘the domesticated bull/ox’) never occurs in the royal context. For example, one of the best
statements expressing the king’s ‘fierce’ aspect in association with the wild bull is found in
the royal inscription of Sennacherib in the first millennium: he claims that “I marched in
front of them (my warriors) like a fierce wild bull” (anåku k¬ma r¬mi ekdi pan∑ßßun aπbat).84
In this example, the king’s fierce feature as the ‘military leader’ is expressed in terms of the
‘wild bull’. Notions such as ‘angered, destructive, and dashing through’ are evoked to
interact with the corresponding qualities perceived in the king in a martial context. This shift
is likely to reflect the different conceptual value given to domestic bovine animals in
Akkadian-speaking societies. In Akkadian literature, the domesticated bovine species as a
whole seem to have had negative nuances, particularly in the royal context, regardless of their
physical state (castrated or perfect). Cooper suggested that a clear contrast between the wild
and the domestic bulls can already be observed in Sumerian animal proverbs, in which the
wild bull appears to be “strong, free, proud, and fierce”, whereas the ox/bull is “plodding,

80 Klein 1981, 113-114: 299-303, 155: 84.


81 Íulgi B 342: Castellino 1972, 64.
82 Íulgi X 84: Klein 1981, 140.
83 Heimpel 1968, 123, note 1. The leading animal is expressed in Sumerian as follows: g u d . s a g (the
leading bull), áb.sag (the leading cow), and ù z.sag (the leading goat).
84 OIP 2, 36 iv 2.
64 Animals in royal contexts

constrained, exploited, and slaughtered”.85 It is assumed that the latter imagery was further
emphasised in Akkadian literature and became dominant in the notions evoked by domestic
bovine animals. Thus this metaphor was regarded as inappropriate for the imagery applied to
the king, since it contradicts the essential feature attributed to him. This may be the reason
for the disappearance of the domestic bull/ox in Akkadian royal metaphor. Instead the
property was expressed for preference in terms of the wild species.
This tendency is also observed in the use of the divine epithet g u d , which for no
apparent reason is translated differently in Akkadian when the term is used to describe a
powerful feature of the god. In a bilingual text, for example, the god Ißkur is described in
Sumerian as “the irresistible b u l l of the mountains” (gg u d . á . n u 6. g i 4. a . k u r . r a ). However,
its Akkadian translation reads “the irresistible h ero of the mountains” (qar-rad ßá la im-ma≈-
≈ar ßá ßadî),86 the ‘bull’ (gg u d ) being replaced by ‘hero’ (qarradu ). The fact that this
Akkadian interpretation, in which the domesticated species was carefully avoided, was not
produced by mistake but was deliberate, is suggested by another bilingual text in which
Ißkur’s divine epithet, the wild bull (aam), is translated synonymously as follows: “the w ild
b u l l lifting horns, the father Ißkur/Adad” (aa m.si.mú a.a.di ß k u r : r¬mu qarnu abi d adad).87
Thus the wild bull metaphor remains intact, whereas that of the domestic bull is replaced by
something else which was regarded as more appropriate for the divine properties attributed to
the storm god in Akkadian. Although we cannot find similar bilingual evidence for royal
metaphors, it is plausible that the same negative perception of the domestic bull/ox rendered it
inappropriate for the concept of kingship, especially in a military context.
In the so-called ‘Assyrian hieroglyphs’, the figure of a bull is believed to represent
the king in the same way as that of a lion.88 According to Finkel and Reade, the bull
depicted on glazed bricks outside the temples at Khorsabad (fig. 41) represented
LUGAL2 /ßarru (‘the king’), suggesting that both the bull and the lion (LUGAL), in this
context, were interchangeable.

85 Cooper 1971, 148.


86 CT 15, 15, 1ff.; see Heimpel 1968, 5.82.1.
87 SBH 9, rev. 26-27; see Heimpel 1968, 3.5.
88 Finkel & Reade 1996, 249-250.
The perception of kingship 65
I.3. The perception of kingship as reflected in animal references

The special royal associations of the lion and the wild bull have so far been examined
according to the contexts in which the references to the animals occur. These two animals
share a clear wild property described as ‘fierceness’ that is also attributed to the royal figure
and is an essential quality of kingship. The choice of these two animals, from among other
species of the wild, to convey the special royal connotation is not only observed in royal
epithets but also deduced from the way in which personal names were chosen. There is a
special category of Akkadian personal names which consist of a single animal name. This
means that a person was called by the name of an animal, and there are examples of various
animal names. However, the ‘lion’ and the ‘wild bull’, which have strong royal associations,
never occur as Akkadian personal names, despite the fact that some domestic bovine names,
such as Al-pa-an (“Ox”), that appears in a Mari text as a son of Ya-ás-ma-a≈-d IM,89 and
fB∑rtum/B∑ratum (“Female-Calf”) or fB∑rtani (“Our-Female-Calf”) appear in some
Akkadian texts.90 Another animal which does not occur as a simple name is the eagle
(naßru/erû). According to Stamm, these three kinds of animal are used in personal names
only if they are combined with the name of a deity or a king.91 This signifies that it was not
appropriate for ordinary people to call themselves ‘(I am) Lion’, ‘(I am) Wild bull’ or ‘(I am)
Eagle’. It provides evidence that these animals were perceived as having special significance,
and they must have been associated exclusively with the concepts of kingship or godship in
Mesopotamia.
It further reflects implicitly the notion of human classification perceived in terms of
animal classification. Animals such as lions, wild bulls, and eagles feature on account of
their strong wild nature. Notions such as strength, fierceness, and aggressiveness are
associated with the concept of leadership. Although the king’s associations with the strong
wild animals are attested in both Sumerian and Akkadian literary sources, the restriction on
the use of personal names reveals that the Akkadian-speaking ruling class was distinguished
from the rest of the population in its association with particular strong creatures of the wild.
This can be interpreted as the nature of rulership belonging to the domain of the wild, where
domination is achieved not only by physical forces but also by the power of nature. The
classification of the king as a ‘creature of nature’ creates a contrast between the ruler and the
ruled. His people were regarded in their society as ‘domestic animals’ governed by cultural
order, in which the king played the role of ‘shepherd’ (discussed below). Only the king
possesses the property of the wild, with which he dominates others.

89 Huffmon 1965, 151.


90 Stamm 1939, 245, 253.
91 Stamm 1939, 254. Cf. Limet, 1968, 328, 329, and 522.
66 Animals in royal contexts

The ambivalent nature of kingship, however, is observed in the association of the


Sumerian king with bovine animals. It is noteworthy that the king is described by both the
‘wild bull’ and the ‘(domesticated) bull/ox’ in the royal metaphors of the Ur III period and in
personal names. One of the most characteristic features of the bovine animal is that it gives
rise to both wild and domestic symbolism, and the nature of kingship is closely associated
with precisely this point. Domestication may be seen as the taming of the wild, in which
animal domestication is a part of the wider process of expanding cultural control over the
wild domain.92 The sacred nature of kingship derives from the point that the power of
kingship is not confined within cultural order but is extended beyond the border of the
cultural domain. In an anthropological context, this idea is clearly manifested in the Swazi
ritual of regeneration, which can be taken as one possible model to explain the nature of
kingship in relation to the wild and the domesticated. The Swazi king presents himself naked
and is seated on the principal ox of the royal herd in order to show himself as a ‘creature of
nature’, by which he reveals his entirely ‘decultured’ aspect to his people.93 The king is thus
regarded as occupying the place where human territory meets an exterior territory, where
there are natural and supernatural forces. It is the nature of kingship which places the king in
an ambivalent position: he is a figure of admiration and at the same time he is the ‘other’
who possesses an entirely different nature from ordinary people. The Swazi king as the
master of savage nature, which elsewhere is symbolised by his association with the lion, is a
symmetrically inverted image of the symbolic figure of royalty as the ruler of the cultural
domain, the notion of which is linked to the symbolism of the domestic animal: the
‘principal ox of the royal herd’ associated with the king. The king denotes the violent natural
spirit that is essential to ensure the regeneration of the world and he is also associated with
supernatural power deriving from the external wild domain, with which he can conjure away
peril or drought. This extraordinary force, bestowed only on the king, forms the most
important aspect of kingship. The king is thus perceived as occupying the place of
conjunction between the external wild territory and the internal domestic territory, which is
symbolised by his identification not only with the strong creatures of the wild but also with
the prime domestic figure residing within the system of cultural order. For people within
society, the wild domain is situated outside their experience and is perceived as ‘dangerous’.
It is also the place where strong supernatural forces exist which can regenerate all living
creatures and vegetation. The king serves as the medium for introducing supernatural forces
into society at the propitious moment for maintaining the life cycle. As the Sumerian concept
of kingship reveals the king’s association with both the wild and the domestic, the Swazi

92 Hodder 1990, 53.


93 De Heusch 1985, 98-124, 204-208.
The perception of kingship 67
model can be taken as an explicit example, providing one possible explanation for the
Sumerian perception of kingship.
The notion of the king occupying the primary place in the domestic domain is
typically reflected in a common Mesopotamian royal epithet: the king as a ‘shepherd’. The
use of the ‘shepherd’ (ssipa /r∆’û) in royal epithets occurs frequently throughout the history
of Mesopotamia. One of the oldest examples comes from the Early Dynastic period.
Enanatum I of Lagaß is described as the “true shepherd” (ssipa.zi),94 and Gudea, in the later
period, uses the epithets “shepherd” (ss i p a ), “prime shepherd of Ningirsu” (ss i p a . g ú . t u k u
d n i n . g í r . s ú . k a . k e 4 ), “shepherd of his country” (ss i p a . m a . <d
d a >.. n a ), and “Ningirsu’s true
shepherd whose mouth (is) truthful” (ss i p a . z i k a g i . n a d n i n . g í r . s ú . k a . k e 4 ). 95 The
shepherd-epithet is not only used by these early kings but also by the kings of the Ur III
period, the Isin-Larsa Dynasties, the Old Babylonian and the Kassite periods, and by those
of first-millennium Assyria and Babylonia. The expression reveals the Mesopotamian
perception of the king and society: members of society are regarded as the king’s flock,
reflecting the idea that society belongs to the domestic domain and that the king is
responsible for his flock. This is to perceive domesticated sheep as appropriate to denote the
situation of people in a society ruled by a king. Once sheep are domesticated, they never
truly escape from the flock and are incapable of surviving without a shepherd. The
domesticated sheep require human intervention and assistance for food, water, and defence
against predators, which signifies that the human cultural order has replaced nature in the
sheep’s life, as it has in the life of humans. In this respect, sheep are regarded as closer to
humans than any other animals, and therefore the humans are associated with and compared
to the flock, and the king is compared to the shepherd. The conjunction between the king
identified with the domestic bull/ox and the king identified with the shepherd is found in a
royal epithet of Íulgi:

The shepherd Íulgi, the great bull with splendid limbs


(ss i p a . ß u l . g i g u d . g a l á . g ú . n u )96

In this epithet, both the notion of the king belonging to the domestic and that of his leading
role in the domestic domain are explicitly reflected in terms of the domesticated ‘bull’ (ggud)
and the ‘shepherd’ (ssipa) respectively. The king thus conveys dual aspects: as a creature of
wild, he displays his strong wild nature which distinguishes him from the rest of the
population; as the prime domestic figure, he presents his leadership in terms of a shepherd.

94 Sollberger 1956, 46, lettre VII 4.


95 Seux 1967, 441-446; for Akkadian examples, ibid., 244-250.
96 Íulgi D 2: Klein 1981, 72.
68 Animals in royal contexts

This duality is also reflected in the use of the wild and domestic animals in Sumerian royal
metaphors.
To sum up, we have discussed symbolic statements and representations expressed in
terms of the lion within the context of royalty. It is necessary to clarify the nature and
structure of metaphoric statements in order to understand what is intended in each metaphoric
context by the reference to a lion and a bull. The application of the interaction theory to
Mesopotamian animal metaphors thus enables us to articulate the framework of metaphoric
expressions. The use of animal metaphors applied to the royal context is here analysed by
the close examination of their contexts, which function as the frame of metaphors that specify
and highlight specific corresponding notions in the focus of the metaphoric statements.
Lions and bulls, discussed in this chapter, are used as symbolic media in order to refer to
particular notions. Such notions can vary according to their contexts, but what is specified in
each case was left vague in previous studies. It was assumed that, for example, the lion as a
whole signified vague notions such as ‘strength’, regardless of the context where it occurs,
reflecting our general perception of the animal. Metaphoric expressions, however, aim to
specify and select particular concepts by referring to symbolic agents. It has been shown in
this chapter that this also applied in the case of Mesopotamian literary texts and art. Thus the
lion and the bull, both in metaphoric statements and in symbolic representations, are not used
as mere ‘indicators’ of something or as ‘substitutes’ for something else; they function as
symbolic ‘systems’. This reveals the essential feature of symbolic mechanisms, in which
systems are operated for the sake of cognition of ideas. These systems manifest themselves
by emphasising the special qualities represented by specific features of the animals which are
concrete and realistic. By placing such qualities in a metaphorical framework, notions
generated by both the animal metaphor (focus) and its context (frame) interact and establish a
particular idea. As this idea is singled out in interacting processes, metaphoric statements
accomplish their purpose of using the animals as symbolic media in order to build up images
and specific features of royalty.
CHAPTER II
The Role of Animals in the Royal Hunt

The royal hunting scenes depicted in the wall relief of the North West Palace at Nimrud
provide important information about the symbolic meaning of the royal hunt in its relation to
the concept of Assyrian kingship. A set of two hunting scenes was once on the wall of the
so-called Throne Room (Room B) of the palace of Aßßurnaπirpal II: one showed the bull
hunt and the other, next to it, the lion hunt of the king. In the royal bull-hunt scene (fig. 8),
the king stands in a chariot, facing backwards in order to kill his prey with a sword; another
bull, felled by arrows, lies on the ground beneath the galloping chariot horses. This relief
slab was originally positioned on the wall immediately to the right of the throne base, which
is set at the east end of the room,1 and it is likely that it was intended to be read first in the
entire narrative scheme of the long series of wall reliefs in the Throne Room. On the wall
behind the throne base, there was originally a relief showing the king paying homage to a
winged sun disk depicted above the sacred tree. This relief has a symmetrical scheme, in
which the figure of the king is repeated to the left and right of the central motif (i.e., the
winged sun disk and the sacred tree) flanked by protective figures of genii. Winter regards
this relief as representing the concept of kingship which is confirmed in the religious context,
and this visual message was effectively conveyed to the viewers when the king was seated
on the throne with the relief behind him.2 The bull-hunt scene was followed immediately by
the lion-hunt scene (fig. 9), positioned to the right and presumably intended to be read
immediately after the bull-hunt scene. The king stands in a chariot, facing backwards in
order to shoot at a lion with a bow and arrow; another lion lies under the feet of the chariot
horses. Below each of the hunting reliefs, a ritual of libation is depicted: the king, holding a
libation cup in his right hand and a bow in his left, stands on the ground, and at his feet there
is the corpse of his prey (figs. 10-11). The hunting and the libation relief slabs are arranged
in the upper and lower registers respectively, which are separated by inscribed texts from the
king’s annals. These two scenes are followed by reliefs depicting the king’s extensive
military activities.3
As a whole, they may be seen as the visual representation of what is recorded in the
king’s annals, in which the main themes — arranged chronologically — are military

1 The reliefs from the Throne Room are reconstructed in their original position in Meuszynski,1981.
2 Winter 1983, 17-19. For the discussion on the sacred tree depicted in the centre of the relief, see Parpola
1993, 161-208.
3 For detailed discussions on the reliefs from the Throne Room, see Winter 1981, 2-22, and Winter 1983, 15-
31.
70 The role of animals in the royal hunt

activities, the royal hunts, and building work. The artistic scheme of a series of wall reliefs
in the Throne Room, however, is not merely a visual version of the royal inscriptions; it
presents an ideology of the military state and of its leader, the king, whose glory was
displayed for an audience. The fact that the royal hunt scenes were placed at the beginning of
the visual narration of the king’s achievements — unlike the order of the textual description
in the royal annals, in which the hunting account occurs after the lengthy military account —
emphasises the importance of hunting activities as part of the concept of kingship. In
addition, the selection of the two animal hunts (i.e., the bull and lion, representing the king’s
prey) suggests that special significance was attached to these hunts in the Assyrian ideology
of kingship.
In Assyrian royal inscriptions, the king’s hunting accounts are always preceded by a
stock phrase stating the king’s religious obligation in the hunt:

Ninurta and Nergal who love my priesthood, gave to me wild animals


of the steppe and commanded me to hunt.
(d NIN.IB ù d IGI.DU ßa ßangu-ti i-ra-am-mu
MÁÍ.ANÍE EDIN ú-ßat-li-mu-ni-ma e-piß ba-’a-ri iq-bu-ni)4

Although the inscription says that the gods Ninurta and Nergal commanded the king to hunt
wild animals, this statement needs to be understood as an ‘official statement’, expressing a
social ‘paradigm’ which provides a pattern of thinking or a set of assumptions taken for
granted in a society. In other words, it functioned as the ‘restricted code’ (as opposed to the
‘elaborated code’), in which information about ‘what’ went on and ‘who’ was responsible
for these deeds is conveyed. However, the principal function of this utterance is to impose a
social structure in which the world is governed and controlled by supernatural entities who
give orders to the king, their loved one. Each time this idea was expressed, it reinforced the
framework of the social structure and promoted social integration. Although the subject of
the above statement is ‘gods’, the discourse must be understood as the creation not of ‘gods’
but of humans, with the aim of imposing a pattern of perception. Supernatural entities are
introduced into this statement for the purpose of justifying the deeds of the king. It is
important to read this deeper level of meaning into the statement, which reveals symbolic
aspects of the Assyrian royal hunt, rather than taking the official expression at its face value.
In studying the meaning of the royal hunt, the difficulty is that there is no direct
statement in Mesopotamian texts which explains its purpose. As a result, various theories
have been proposed. For example, Pauline Albenda regarded the lion-hunt scene as an
assertion of the divine power behind the king’s successful hunt, which was also associated

4 Shalmaneser III, IM 54669, IV 40-42: Sumer 6, 18.


The role of animals in the royal hunt 71
with the king’s successful campaign against his enemies. In her article on the lion-hunt relief
of Aßßurnaπirpal II, she interpreted the libation ritual performed after the hunt as glorifying
the divine power and reaffirming the divine role in the successful hunt.5 Elena Cassin
regarded the first-millennium Assyrian royal lion hunt as both the most princely activity and
a religious obligation of the king, since the hunt was carried out at the command of deities
who loved his priesthood, as recorded in Assyrian royal inscriptions. Her view was that the
king confronted the lion in a royal combat which was performed as a kind of ordeal. With
victory over the lion, the king’s power was believed to extend beyond the realm of the
civilised world (måtu) into the wild (erπetu [sic]), the latter being represented by the lion,
which occupies the highest place in that hierarchy.6 Weissert, on the other hand, compared
textual expressions in the lion hunt and the martial accounts in the Assyrian royal
inscriptions, and then suggested that the lions can be identified with enemies. He concluded
that the king Aßßurbanipal hunted lions in order to present himself as a ‘faithful shepherd’,
fulfilling the traditional role of the Mesopotamian king to protect his people and domestic
animals from the harmful beasts.7
The meaning of any subject matter presented either in texts or in art involves different
phases, each of which creates a different level of meaning according to the depth of
understanding. In order to clarify the views proposed by the above scholars, Panofsky’s
theory that three major processes determine the meaning of the visual arts can be applied to
elucidate which aspect of meaning is focused on in each case. The first is to identify the
natural subject matter represented. If this process is applied to the hunting scenes of
Aßßurnaπirpal II, the primary phase is to recognise a human figure on a chariot aiming
weapons at an animal. The second phase is to identify the conventional meaning of the
subject matter. In the royal hunt scenes, it is to acknowledge that the human figure shown
with a curious ‘tall hat’ represents the ‘Assyrian king’, and that the scene represents the
theme of the royal hunt, in which the king vanquishes enemy forces. Viewers in the ancient
world would also have perceived that the king took part in the hunt as part of his religious
duties, at the command of the gods, as officially stated in the royal inscription, and
accordingly that divine power was behind the king, supporting his heroic act. The
interpretations suggested by Albenda, Cassin, and Weissert mostly relate to this phase.
Finally, the third phase is to identify the intrinsic meaning which reveals underlying
principles. This level deals with connotation or symbolism. These symbolic aspects of the
royal hunt have not been greatly emphasised, except for Cassin’s suggestion that the king’s
power, by slaying lions, extends beyond the civilised world into the wild, the perception of
which touches on this third category. The aim of this chapter is to focus on the third phase
5 Albenda 1972, 167-178.
6 Cassin 1981, 353-401.
7 Weissert 1997, 339-358.
72 The role of animals in the royal hunt

of meaning by examining the Assyrian royal hunt in the light of the mythological parallels
implied, as well as to investigate how the hunt functioned in relation to the concept of
Assyrian kingship as perceived by society.

II.1. The Assyrian royal bull hunt and the Gilgameß myth

In artistic representations, the earliest depiction of the possible ‘royal’ bull hunt is found on a
cylinder seal from the Uruk period: a man wearing a ‘net-skirt’ is using a bow and arrows to
shoot at four bulls (fig. 12).8 As mentioned in Chapter I.1, it is difficult to identify the hunter
represented in the scene as ‘royal’. The arrows here have an open ‘V’-shaped head: they are
possibly the ‘barbed arrows’ (gg i ß . t i . z ú ) mentioned in the Íulgi hymn as the weapon used
specially for the king’s bull hunt.9 Behind the hunter there is a ‘gate-post with streamer’, the
symbol of Inanna, and an attendant stands holding two spare arrows. After this example,
there is a gap of some two thousand years. A late Middle Assyrian example is found on the
White Obelisk, which is thought to be datable to the time of Aßßurnaπirpal I. 10 In
representations from the Neo-Assyrian period, the royal bull hunt takes place from a chariot,
on which the king stands, either aiming at the animal with a bow and arrows11 or stabbing it
with a sword.12 The best-known example from this period is probably that of Aßßurnaπirpal
II discussed above. Fragmentary pieces of a stone relief from the same palace and a bronze
relief which used to decorate a gate in Balawat also have the same subject matter.13
The hunt is recorded in texts as early as the royal inscriptions of the Ur III king.
Íulgi hymn B, for instance, contains a lengthy account of the king’s hunt:14 various animals,
such as the wild bull and cow, the lion, the ass, and the boar, are mentioned in the
descriptions of how animals were hunted. Selz has suggested that the wild bull (aa m ) was
kept in game reserves (tt i r . a m . m a : “the grove of the wild bull”) as early as the Early
Dynastic period at Lagaß, presumably for a religious purpose related to the goddess
Ninhursag/Ninma≈/Nintu.15 Numerous references to the king’s bull hunt are found in the
Assyrian royal inscriptions. For example, four wild bulls (aa m meß ) are hunted by Tiglath-
pileser I,16 and Aßßur-b∆l-kala records six wild bulls (aa m meß ) hunted by the king.17 From
8 Mallowan 1964, Tafel 8 a-c.
9 Íulgi B 87; Castellino 1972, 128, 83ff. under ‘-ti, g i ß . t i ’.
10 Reade 1975, 129-150.
11 Collon 1987, fig. 693; Magen 1986, Tafel 2-5, 9, 12.
12 Magen 1986, Tafel 2-6.
13 Barnett 1973, 19-22.
14 Íulgi B iv 57-100; Castellino 1972, 36-41.
15 Selz, “Theriomorphe und anthropomorphe Gottheiten”: a paper read at the Orientalisches Seminar der
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg in 1994.
16 AKA 85 vi 62-67.
17 AfO 6, 86 III 29-32.
The Assyrian royal bull hunt 73
the time of Aßßur-dan II, the animal is written as g u d . a m meß , and the number hunted rises
suddenly to 1600.18 Adad-nirari II records his prey as 240 bulls;19 Aßßurnaπirpal II, on his
so-called ‘Banquet Stele’, records 390 bulls;20 and Shalmaneser III records 373.21 The
sudden increase in the number of bulls hunted according to Aßßur-dan II’s annals suggests
that the hunt was taking place on a much larger scale than before. It may indicate that for the
purpose of the royal hunt Aßßur-dan II started keeping bulls in game reserves, like the lions
represented in Aßßurbanipal’s royal lion-hunt scenes, in which the animals are depicted
coming out of a cage to be hunted, thus enabling the king to obtain a much greater number of
prey in total — if the statement in Aßßur-dan II’s annals is entirely true.
In the royal inscription recorded in the twentieth year of Shalmaneser III’s reign (838
B.C.), there are two separate accounts of the royal bull hunt. The first relates to his
seventeenth regnal year, when he killed 63 wild bulls and captured four alive; the second
occurs in his nineteenth regnal year, when he killed ten wild bulls and two calves:

In my seventeenth year, I crossed the Euphrates (and) received the tribute


from the kings of Hatti land. I cut down logs of cedar (and) brought to my
city Aßßur. On my return from Mount Amanus, (I killed) 63 wild bulls,
strong, with horns, perfect specimens in the city of Zuqarru which is on that
side of the Euphrates. I captured four (wild bulls) alive with my hands.22

In my nineteenth year, I crossed the Euphrates for the seventeenth time (and)
received the tribute from the kings of Hatti-land. I went up to Mount
Amanus, cut down logs of cedar and juniper, (and) brought to my city Aßßur.
On my return from Mount Amanus, I killed ten wild bulls, strong, with
horns, perfect specimens, (and) two calves in the city of Zuqarru which is on
that side of the Euphrates.23

18 AfO 3, 160 rev. 26.


19 KAH 2, 84, 122ff.; Grayson ARI 2, 91, §436.
20 Wiseman 1952, 34 II 87; Grayson ARI 2, 175, §681.
21 G. Cameron 1950, 18 IV 42.
22 Safar 1951, 18 III 37-45:
ina 17 BAL.MEÍ -ia ÍD.A.RAT e-bir ma-da-tú ßá MAN.MEÍ-ni ßa KUR ≈at-te am-≈ur a-na KUR-e KUR ≈a-
ma-ni e-li GIÍ ÙR.MEÍ GIÍ e-ri-ni a-ki-is a-na URU -ia aß-ßur ub-la ina ta-ia-ar-ti-ia ßa ißtu KUR ≈a-ma-ni 1
ßu-ßi 3 GUD.AM.MEÍ dan-nu-te ßu-ut qar-ni gít-ma-lu-te ina URU zu-qar-ri ßa GÌR II am-ma-a-te ßa
ÍD.A.RAT a-duk 4 TI.LA.MEÍ ina qa-te aπ-bat
23 Safar 1951, 19 IV 15-22:
ina 19 BAL.MEÍ -ia 17 ßú ÍD.A.RAT e-bir ma-da-tú ßá LUGAL.MEÍ -ni ßa KUR ≈at-te am-≈ur a-na KUR ≈a-
ma-ni e-li GIÍ gu-ßur MEÍ GIÍ e-ri-ni GIÍ ÍIM.LI a-ki-is a-na URU-ia aß-ßur ub-la ina ta-ia-ar-ti-ia ßa ißtu
KUR ≈a-ma-ni 10 GUD.AM.MEÍ dan-nu-te ßu-ut qar-ni gít-ma-lu-te 2 GUD.AMAR.MEÍ ina URU zu-qar-ri
ßa GÌR II am-ma-a-te ßa ÍD.A.RAT a-duk
74 The role of animals in the royal hunt

The significance lies in the fact that both hunts are stated to have taken place in the city of
Zuqarru (situated on the western side of the Euphrates) on Shalmaneser III’s return from
Mount Amanus, where he had cut down timbers of cedar. Although Safar is of the opinion
that details of the royal hunt and of the cutting down of trees were inserted into the annals
because the scribe could not find enough military events to fill the appropriate space in the
seventeenth and nineteenth years,24 the episode is reminiscent of the famous story told in the
Epic of Gilgameß: Gilgameß slays the Bull of Heaven after he achieves victory over
Humbaba, the guardian of the cedar forest, where Gilgameß, together with Enkidu, cuts
down the trees.25 The order of the episode as recorded in Shalmaneser III’s annals — first
cutting down the cedar trees, then killing the wild bulls — follows the narrative structure of
the Gilgameß myth, implying a parallel between the deeds of the Assyrian king and those of
the mythological hero Gilgameß.
More than 1200 years before the time of Shalmaneser III, Íulgi, the second king of
the Third Dynasty of Ur, demonstrated that his prey from the hunt was associated with the
‘Bull of Heaven’, the mythological animal slain by Gilgameß and Enkidu. In Íulgi hymn B,
the ‘great wild bull’ (aam.gal) and ‘cow’ (ssún) are described as the king’s prey: the animals
are said to be ‘assailed with barbed arrows’26 and to ‘collapse like an old tower’.27 In one
line, the ‘great wild bull’ is immediately followed by the “Bull of Heaven” (gg u d . a n . n a ),
which thus apparently explains and specifies the former:

The big wild bull, the Bull of Heaven, the wild cow
(aa m . g a l g u d . a n . n a s ú n )
... my mighty arm assailed them with barbed arrows.28

Although Castellino considers that g u d . a n . n a refers to a ‘real animal of zoology’, with


an.na enhancing ‘the natural character, fiery and indomitable, of the beast’,29 this is not a
convincing explanation. The fact that the victim of the royal hunt is described here as the
‘Bull of Heaven’ can be regarded as placing Íulgi’s hunt in a cosmological context. As the
kings of the Ur III period were deified, it is likely that Íulgi intentionally associated himself
with a great mythological figure, for the king describes himself as the ‘son of Ninsun and
Lugalbanda’ and the ‘brother and friend of Gilgameß’:

24 Safar 1951, 3-4.


25 SAA Gilg. V.
26 Íulgi B 87.
27 Íulgi B 90.
28 Íulgi B 85, 87.
29 Castellino 1972, 130.
The Assyrian royal bull hunt 75
Your mother, Nin[sun], gave birth [to you],
Your (personal) god, pure Lugal[banda] fashioned [you].
(aa m a . ú g u . z u d n i n . s [úú n a . k e 4 ] m u . ù . t u d . e . [èè n ]
d i n g i r . z u k ù .d l u [gg a l . b à n . d a ] m u . ù . d í m . e ? .[èèn? ])30

His brother (and) friend, the lord Gilgameß.


(ßß e ß . k u . l i . n i e n . d g i l g a m e ß )31

This suggests that the account of Íulgi’s bull hunt deliberately alludes to the episode in the
Gilgameß myth, in which the hero, with his friend, Enkidu, slays the Bull of Heaven.32 It is,
of course, difficult to say whether the tradition of kingship associated with the mythological
hero was maintained until the first millennium B.C. or was recovered at some later stage.
However, it can safely be stated that the mythological hero Gilgameß was well known in
first-millennium Assyria, on the basis of considerable textual evidence, such as prayers
dedicated to Gilgameß and religious texts referring to him,33 as well as textual references to
the ‘statue (πalmu) of Gilgameß’ used in rituals.34
Furthermore, in the royal bull-hunt relief in the palace of Aßßurnaπirpal II, the way in
which the bull is killed is also paralleled in an episode of the Gilgameß myth. Aßßurnaπirpal
II slays a bull by holding one of the animal’s horns in one hand and by thrusting a sword
into the bull’s neck behind the horns.35 This is exactly how Gilgameß kills the Bull of
Heaven and it is stated explicitly in the Akkadian version of the Epic of Gilgameß as follows:

He (Gilgameß) plunged his sword in between the base of the horns


and the neck
(ina bi-rit ti-ik-ki qar-ni ù [UZU.SA.GÚ] GÍR-ßú [um-mid] )36

The Assyrian royal bull hunt thus suggests possible associations with the heroic episode in
which Gilgameß slays the Bull of Heaven. The king’s achievement of slaying a bull, in the
same manner as that of the legendary hero, may be seen in parallel with the deeds of
Gilgameß: the king’s heroic act is placed in mythological contexts and his heroic nature,
essential for the quality of kingship, is explained in terms of the legendary hero Gilgameß.

30 Íulgi D 41-42: Klein 1981, 49.


31 Íulgi D 292: Klein 1981, 82; Íulgi F 9: Castellino 1972, 262; for discussions on the family relationship
between the Ur III kings and Gilgameß, see Klein 1976, 271-291.
32 SAA Gilg. VI 130ff.
33 For example, KAR 227 ii 4, 7-15; iii 14, 31, 41; Köcher BAM 231 i 16.
34 Garelli Gilg. 42ff.; Parpola LAS 208, rev. 2-8; CT 40, 11, 73.
35 Budge 1914, pl. XII-1.
36 SAA Gilg. VI 148.
76 The role of animals in the royal hunt

II.2. The Assyrian royal lion hunt and the Ninurta myth

The earliest depiction of the possible royal lion hunt is found on the Lion-Hunt Stele
excavated in the Eanna precinct, Uruk, and dated to the late fourth millennium B.C.37 (fig. 1).
On the lower part of the stele, a man wearing a short skirt (without a pattern of ‘net’-like
cross-stripes) and a distinctive hairband (the latter is commonly worn by the so-called ‘man-
in-the-net-skirt’) shoots at lions with a bow and arrows. On the upper part of the stele,
another hunter — possibly the same hunter as below — attacks a lion with a spear.
Although it is not certain whether the hunter (or hunters) represented in the scene can be
identified as ‘royal’, the theme of hunting lions may be seen in the context of performing
‘heroic deeds’, a quality which is indispensable in a leader.
Major artistic evidence for the royal lion hunt is provided by Neo-Assyrian palace
reliefs. In the North West Palace of Aßßurnaπirpal II, not only the relief panel representing
the king’s hunt from the chariot, together with the bull-hunt scene, was found in the Throne
Room (discussed above), but also two fragmentary reliefs depicting the king’s lion hunt
were excavated in other rooms.38 There is another, unpublished, scene of the same king’s
lion hunt on the bronze panel that used to decorate wooden gates at Balawat, now exhibited
in the British Museum. Numerous reliefs representing the theme, however, were found in
the North Palace of Aßßurbanipal at Nineveh. They may be regarded as the most informative
source for all the activities connected with the royal hunt, since they describe events from the
preparatory stage to the post-hunting ritual. In preparation for the hunt, the king is shown
being equipped with his weapons — a bow and arrows — and mounting a chariot to which
horses are being harnessed.39 The lion hunt exclusively was represented on all the walls of
Room C of the palace (fig. 13): the king appears three times in the main hunting scenes, each
time holding a different weapon. Between the preparation and the hunting scenes, a scene
has been inserted which shows the citizens of Nineveh climbing up a wooded hill in order to
watch the king’s lion hunt (fig. 14); on top of the hill stands a stele which depicts the king
hunting a lion from his chariot. The ritual of libation, represented on the wall of Room S1 ,
was performed after the hunt (fig. 15): the king pours a libation of wine over the carcasses
of the dead lions. He is accompanied by his attendants, who stand behind him, and by
musicians, who face him. Between the king and the musicians there is an offering table and
an incense burner.40

37 PKG 18, 68.


38 Budge 1914, pl. XLII-1; PKG 18, 205.
39 Barnett 1976, plates V-VI: slabs 4-8.
40 Barnett 1976, pl. VI: slabs 8-9.
The Assyrian royal lion hunt 77
Numerous accounts of the king’s lion hunt are found in Assyrian royal inscriptions.
For example, 800 lions (UR.MAÙ.MEÍ) were hunted by Tiglath-pileser I,41 300 lions by
Aßßur-b∆l-kala,42 120 lions by Aßßur-dan II,43 360 lions by Adad-nirari II;44 450 lions were
killed45 and 15 lions, together with 50 lion cubs, were captured alive46 by Aßßurnaπirpal II;
399 lions and three fierce lions (UR.MAÙ.MEÍ ekd∑te) were hunted by Shalmaneser III47
and Íamßi-Adad V48 respectively. Although these texts record only the acts of hunting, and
never refer to post-hunting activities, it is known that the hunt was followed by the ritual of
libation, as represented in the reliefs of Aßßurnaπirpal II and Aßßurbanipal. The libation
ritual of Aßßurbanipal provides an important insight into the perception of kingship in
association with the royal hunt, and has been discussed elsewhere by the author: 49 a
problem has been noted concerning the way in which the ritual furniture (an incense burner
and an offering table) is depicted in relation to the position of the worshipper and the object
being worshipped. The king in the scene is shown in the place that conventionally would
have been occupied by something sacred and an object of worship, such as the statue of a
deity or a temple. The fact that the king stands in the place to which homage is paid implies
that he is the centre of attention, despite the fact that he is engaged in pouring a libation over
the carcasses of lions killed in the hunt — a ritual which is normally directed towards some
superior entity. There is no such entity, however, in either the iconography or the text
engraved in the scene. What, therefore, was the role of the king in this particular scene, if he
is not necessarily paying his respects to a specific individual?
The answer to this question should provide the key to the purpose of the royal lion
hunt. Was the aim of the hunt simply the elimination of animals regarded as natural enemies
because they threatened humans and cattle? Or was the hunt performed as a kind of ‘cult-
drama’, in which lions were killed as surrogate victims? Both views are probably correct.
The former has been suggested by various scholars, including Weissert. The way in which
the hunted lions are depicted under the king’s chariot, in both Aßßurnaπirpal II’s and
Aßßurbanipal’s lion-hunt scenes, is indeed the conventional way of representing enemies;
the tradition goes back to the Early Dynastic IIIa period. A panel representing the military
scene of the so-called Standard of Ur, excavated from the royal cemetery at Ur, shows
wounded enemies lying beneath the draught animals. The latter view, however, has not been
much emphasised, owing to the lack of direct evidence for its religious connotations. I
41 AKA 86 vi 80.
42 Grayson 1991, 93 (A.0.89.2) iii 30.
43 AfO 3, 160: 24-26.
44 KAH 2, 84: 123-124.
45 Iraq 14, 34: 86.
46 AKA 202 iv 24-28.
47 WO 1 472: 43.
48 1R 31 iv 3.
49 C. Watanabe 1992, 91-104.
78 The role of animals in the royal hunt

should like to suggest that this view is also correct, for the following reasons. First, the lions
were reserved especially for the king and kept in a cage or in the royal garden for precisely
this purpose.50 Secondly, the hunt was observed by the citizens of Nineveh, who thus
shared the emotional tension which is a characteristic feature of “turning a simple reaction
into a rite”.51 Finally, the king concluded the hunt with a libation ritual which was intended
as an act of purification, atonement, or symbolic restoration, strongly suggesting that the hunt
as a whole should be seen in a ritual context.
The fact that the Assyrian royal lion hunt was followed by the libation ritual suggests
that the hunt was performed as a form of ‘animal sacrifice’: the ritual slaughter which
consecrates the act as proper blood-shedding and killing. Burkert considers the sacrificial
ritual performed after slaughtering as an act of “giving back the animal to some supernatural
owner”, and suggests that the anxiety caused by bloodshed is mitigated by symbolic
restoration. The sacrifice of domestic animals is regarded as a form of offering, because
“domesticated animals are part of human property and the sacrificial act means to give away
some part of private property for general consumption”.52 Burkert’s theory of animal
sacrifice, however, cannot be applied in its entirety to the context of the royal lion hunt,
because the animal slaughtered is not a domestic animal but belongs to the wild domain.
Lions could not be the private property of ordinary people and seem to have belonged to the
king (see the discussion in II.3). Accordingly, the royal lion hunt can be regarded as ritual
slaughter performed by the owner of the animals. It is, however, difficult to define this ritual
slaughter as an ‘offering’, since the name of the divinity who is receiving an ‘offering’ is
absent from both the text and the iconography of the libation scene.
In considering a specific aspect of the ritual that is focused on in the Assyrian royal
lion hunt, the myths and rites of the god Ninurta deserve close examination. His name
always appears together with that of Nergal in the stock phrase used in the royal inscription
that introduces the king’s hunting activities. The importance of Ninurta in the Neo-Assyrian
period is confirmed by the fact that Ninurta was exalted as the principal god of Kal≈u when
Aßßurnaπirpal II rebuilt the city as the new capital of Assyria. The episode in the Akkadian
Anzu myth in which Ninurta vanquishes Anzu was represented on a stone relief originally
placed at the entrance to the Ninurta Temple (fig. 16),53 and a motif based on the same
episode frequently occurs on cylinder seals (figs. 17, 56, 57).54 In addition, the Sumerian
version of the Ninurta myths — i.e., ‘Angim’ and ‘Lugale’ — was in Aßßurbanipal’s library.
Cooper has suggested that these two works were kept as a set, both inscribed on tablets with

50 Barnett 1976, plates IX, XIV-XV, LI (upper register), and LIX (upper register).
51 Harrison 1913, 36-37.
52 Burkert 1979, 54-56.
53 Budge 1914, pl. XXXVII; Livingstone 1989, 90, fig. 29.
54 Moortgat 1966, fig. 595; Porada 1948, fig. 689.
The Assyrian royal lion hunt 79
unique linear frames, used only for ‘Angim’ and ‘Lugale’ on the tablets excavated at
Nineveh.55
There is a possible association between the royal lion hunt and the Ninurta myths.
First, there is a reference to an unusual weapon called giß nar’amtu which was used to kill
lions on the so-called ‘Broken Obelisk’.56 The inscription on the Obelisk is incomplete but
has been dated to the time of either Tiglath-pileser I or Aßßur-b∆l-kala, from the late twelfth
to the first half of the eleventh century B.C. The term nar’amtu, which is always preceded by
the determination GIÍ, occasionally appears in Middle and Neo-Assyrian texts. CAD, for
example, quotes four examples of the term: two in either a fragmentary or an obscure
context, one on the Broken Obelisk, and the last in an oracle text describing a weapon
associated with Elam.57 It is safe, however, to say that it is not a common word. The word
derives from the verb ru’umu (‘to cut off’) in its nominal form, in the context of tools, and a
possible meaning of a ‘mace’ is suggested in CAD. The verb ru’umu, however, is not a
common word either. The term occurs mainly, if not solely, in the Akkadian version of the
Anzu myth, where Ninurta cuts off Anzu’s wings.58 The coincidence that such rare
terminology, either in the nominal or verbal form of the same root, occurs in the accounts of
the Assyrian royal lion hunt and the Anzu myth, may indicate an association.
Secondly, the importance of the chariot in the Assyrian royal hunt should be noted in
connection with Ninurta’s myth. A caption to the lion-hunt scene of Aßßurbanipal reads:
“the chariot, the vehicle of my kingship” (giß GIGIR ru-kub LUGAL-ti-ia).59 A particular
type of chariot was used in the royal hunt: an ‘open chariot’ (giß GIGIR patt∑te)60 is
mentioned repeatedly in the descriptions.61 In these texts, the animals hunted from the ‘open
chariot’ are always lions, until the reign of Aßßurnaπirpal II when, for the first time, the
inscription includes wild bulls among the game animals hunted from this particular type of
chariot. The importance of the chariot in the myths of Ninurta is well observed in the
Sumerian myth ‘Angim’: Ninurta returns victoriously to Nippur in his ‘shining chariot’,
displaying the bodies of eleven monsters slain by the divine hero.62 In the first millennium

55 Cooper 1978, 11, 35: The tablets are inscribed with rulings at all four margins, double-ruled on the left, and
with very sharp and precise rulings between lines. The ruled margins are used only for ‘Lugale’ and ‘Angim’
at Nineveh.
56 AKA 140 iv 12: x n∆ß∆ ina GIÍ nar’amte ußamqit (he brought down x lions with nar’amtu -weapon).
57 ABL 1280: 6. See CAD, ‘∏’, p. 148 under π∆ru B, 1-a):
He said, “I have come from the mace ( giß nir-an-tu), I have pulled off and cut off the serpent
which is on it, and (as) I have broken the mace, so shall I destroy Elam”.
58 Vogelzang 1988, 59-60: lines 107 and 129.
59 Barnett 1976, 53 and pl. LVI, slabs A-B, line 4.
60 Cf. Postgate 1990, 35-38.
61 AKA 86 vi 81 (Tiglath-pileser I); ibid. 139 iv 10 (Aßßur-b∆l-kala); AfO 3, 160, rev. 24; Grayson ARI 2,
77 §369 (Aßßur-dan II); KAH 2, 84, 123 (Adad-nirari II); Bibliotheca Orientalis 27, 154, rev. 53, (Tukulti-
Ninurta II); AKA 205 iv 75-76; Wiseman 1952, 31: 87 (Aßßurnaπirpal II); G. Cameron 1950, 18 iv 43
(Shalmaneser III).
62 Angim 51ff.: Cooper 1978, 62.
80 The role of animals in the royal hunt

B.C., the episode was enacted as a cult drama in which the king played the role of the
victorious Ninurta. From this period, we have three versions of a cultic commentary
describing the victorious return of the divine hero, all of which are based on the same
episode of Ninurta returning from war, standing in a chariot. First, the text explains that the
king riding in “a chariot from Elam without its seat” represents the “victor, Ninurta”, and the
“horses drawing the chariot are the ghosts of Anzu”.63 Secondly, the text replaces Ninurta
with Nabû, describing “the chariots that have come with show of martial prowess from the
desert and enter the centre of the city: that is Nabû, he killed Anzu”.64 Thirdly, Anzu is then
replaced by Enlil in the text which describes Nabû riding in the chariot: Nabû is led before
Marduk and Zarpånîtu in order to display his weapons at Esagila.65 It has been suggested by
Livingstone that the replacement of Ninurta by Nabû may be due to the fact that Nabû was
preferred in Babylonia, because he was the son of the chief god Marduk, who in the text
replaced Ninurta, the son of Enlil, the chief god of Nippur.66
The third line of evidence for the association of the royal lion hunt with Ninurta is
found in a textual description of the king hunting ‘on foot’ ina ß∆p¬ (GÌRII.meß ), which occurs
frequently in Assyrian royal inscriptions, together with the king’s hunt from the chariot. In
iconography, the killing of lions ‘on foot’ is depicted in the wall reliefs of Aßßurbanipal (fig.
18): the king is engaged in single combat with a rampant lion, either aiming at the animal
with a bow and arrow or attacking it at close quarters with weapons such as a dagger, lance,
or mace.67 This motif is also found on the ‘Assyrian royal seal’ (figs. 5, 6).68 In the
Assyrian royal inscriptions, two of the texts, which are dated late tenth century to early ninth
century B.C., include an adjective, lasmu/lasmåtu or lassamåtu ‘running, swift’, to explain
ina ß∆p¬ ‘on foot’.

I killed 120 lions from my open-chariot (and) on my swift foot (i-na GÌRII-ia
la-sa-ma-te) with my valorous assault. (Aßßur-dan II)69

I killed 360 lions from my open-chariot, with my valorous assault, (and) on


my swift foot with spear. (Adad-nirari II)70

63 KAR 307, obv. 24-29; Jacobsen 1975, 73, and note 58.
64 LKA 71, obv. 7; Jacobsen 1975, 73, and note 56.
65 CT 15, 44: 24-28; Jacobsen 1975, 73, and note 57.
66 Cf. Livingstone 1986, 155.
67 Barnett 1976, plates LII, LVII.
68 Cf. Sachs 1953, 167-170; Parker 1962, 26-40; Millard 1965, 12-16; Millard 1978, 70-71.
69 AfO 3, 160: 24-26.
70 KAH 2, 84: 123-124.
The Assyrian royal lion hunt 81
The use of the word lassamåtu suggests its association with the rite of Ninurta performed in
all cult-centres in the month of Kislimu as a ‘footrace’ (lismu):

The footrace (li-is-mu) in which they go round in front of B∆l and in all the cult
cities in the month of Kislimu is that of Ninurta. When Aßßur sent Ninurta to
vanquish Anzu, ...71

The Akkadian terminology for the footrace (lismu) derives from the same root as lassamåtu
(the feminine form of lasmu) and this cultic commentary explains that the rite of Ninurta
vanquishing his enemy Anzu is enacted in the form of a cultic footrace. The same rite is also
recorded with Nabû replacing Ninurta.72 In iconography, Ninurta is represented in a running
posture (fig. 16), and during the Neo-Assyrian period he is often accompanied by a Horned
Lion Griffin (figs. 17, 56, 57) as his associated animal (discussed in Chapter V). This
running posture is undoubtedly intended to link Ninurta’s pictorial image with his cultic
footrace, and the occurrence of the term lassamåtu in the king’s hunting account further
associates these rituals with the royal lion hunt, in which the ‘swift/running foot’ plays an
important role.
To sum up, in the first-millennium rituals, which the Assyrian scribes perhaps took
over from the second-millennium Babylonian rituals, the dramatic representation of Ninurta’s
victory over his enemies is re-enacted either in the footrace or in his return to the city in a
chariot; the latter must derive from Ninurta’s myth ‘Angim’. The form of the royal lion hunt
in Assyria, hunting from the ‘chariot’ or ‘on swift foot’, corresponds to the two major forms
of Ninurta’s victory enacted in state ritual. After Ninurta vanquishes his enemies, the god
acquires his kingship. In the Sumerian myth ‘Angim’, he is addressed as ‘the king of all the
lands’ (llugal kur.kur.ra)73 and declares “let my kingship be manifest unto the ends of the
universe” (nn a m . l u g a l . m u z a g a n k i . ß è p a ≈ é . e m . m a . n i . [íí b . è ]).74 In the Akkadian
myth of Anzu, Ninurta’s kingship is also established after defeating the monster, and
numerous new names are given to the divine hero. The third name addressed to the god
reads:

Your name <Guardian of the Throne> they gave for (the exercise of)
kingship.

71 Livingstone 1989, 85, no. 34: 57-58; Jacobsen 1975, 72-73.


72 Cf. Livingstone 1989, 25, no. 10: rev. 8.
73 Angim 7: Cooper 1978, 58; see also, for the address of Ninurta as ‘the king’ (llugal), Angim 30 and 49.
74 Angim 168: Cooper 1978, 90.
82 The role of animals in the royal hunt

(MU-ka ra-bi-iπ giß GU.ZA id-di-nu ana LUGAL-ú-ti)75

Thus it is likely that the Assyrian royal lion hunt has the same structure as the rite of Ninurta:
the king establishes and reinforces his kingship by killing lions in the same manner as
Ninurta achieves his divine kingship by slaying monsters. The lions killed by the Assyrian
king are likely to have been perceived as surrogates for monsters slain by Ninurta.

75 Anzu III 130 (GM1 rev.): AfO 35, 28, no. 40. Saggs (AfO 33, 25) originally read the name differently:
‘Your name <He who guides the flocks> they gave (in respect) to kingship’; however, Moran’s reading (AfO
35, 28) is more plausible: the same name for Ninurta appears elsewhere, in CT 25, 11: 36.
The nature and function of the hunt 83
II.3. The nature and function of the royal hunt

The Assyrian royal bull and lion hunts have possible mythological connotations, as
discussed above, and raise a further question: the social function of the hunt in the context of
the concept of kingship as perceived in society. In its association with myths and ritual, the
hunt has similarities with religious rites. Rites reinforce social integration: individual
concerns are systematically related to public concerns. Girard perceives ritual as functioning
to keep violence outside the community, a concept manifested in the many etiological myths
that deal with the murder of one mythological character by another.76 The murder of a
mythological figure serves to promote a cultural order that rejects destructive violence. This
figure is often a divinity and becomes the object of sacred rites in which someone else is
sacrificed as a surrogate victim. The role of this figure is characterised by its dual
connotation: on the one hand, he is an object of scorn, gibes, and insults, and his guilt must
be avenged violently; on the other, he is surrounded by a quasi-religious aura of veneration
to become a sort of cult-object. It is this duality, reflected in the metamorphosis of the ritual
victim, that is designed to affect the participants in the ritual psychologically, and is
surprisingly well observed in the character of Anzu. Thus Girard’s theory of sacrificial rites
can also be applied to the social function of the Assyrian royal lion hunt, in which the slain
lions symbolise not only Anzu and other enemies of Ninurta but also destructive violence in
general. The slaying of Anzu and other monsters was symbolically repeated in the state
ritual of the cultic footrace as well as in the king’s lion hunt, where the lions may have been
perceived as surrogate victims, upon whom violence erupts and then is terminated. The
surrogate victim suffers all the violence that was initially directed at the original victim in the
myths. Through the death of the victim, this destructive violence is transformed into a
beneficial activity associated with harmony and abundance. The function of the royal lion
hunt may therefore be regarded as transforming destructive violence into something positive
and productive, thereby restoring cultural order in society.
In earlier Mesopotamia, lion hunting seems to have been strictly the preserve of
royalty. The first evidence of this can be found in Íulgi Hymn B, as translated by Castellino:

To finish the lion with the weapon was my own privilege


(uu r . m a ≈ g i ß . t u k u l . l a b í . t i l . l a . m u )77

The second piece of evidence comes from the Old Babylonian letters from Mari. There are
two letters, both written by Yaqqim-Addu to the king. In one letter, he reports that a lion

76 Girard 1977, 89-118.


77 Íulgi B 76: Castellino 1972, 38.
84 The role of animals in the royal hunt

was caught at B¬t-Akkaka. For five days, Yaqqim-Addu waited for instructions from the
king about the treatment of this lion, but the king’s reply was slow in coming. Yaqqim-
Addu was increasingly worried about the situation, because the lion refused to eat anything.
He was afraid that the lion might fall sick, so he put the lion in a wooden cage and shipped it
to the king:

lines 1- 3: [Speak] to my lord, thus (says) Yaqqim-Addu, your servant.


4- 5: Previously, thus I wrote to my lord:
6- 7: “A lion was captured in a barn of B¬t-Akkaka.
8- 9: If this lion must stay in the barn until the arrival (of my lord),
10: may my lord write (it) to me.
11-12: Or, if I must send him to my lord,
13: may my lord write (it) to me.”
14: [No]w, the letters from my lord were slow in coming,
15-16: and the lion stayed in the barn for five days.
16-17: A dog and a pig were thrown to him, but he refuses to eat.
17-18: I said this to myself: “Maybe this lion will become nervous.”
19-21: I became scared, and I made this lion enter a wooden cage,
21-23: and lo[aded] (it) on a boat and s[ent it to my lor]d.

a-na be-lí-ia [qí-bí-ma]


um-ma Ia-qí-im-d Addu
warad-ka-a-ma
i-na pa-ni-tim a-na πe-er be-lí-ia
5 ki-a-am aß-pu-ra-am um-ma a-na-ku-ma
1 UR.MAÙ i-na ru-ug-bi-im
ßa B¬t-Ak-ka-kaki iπ-πa-bi-it
ßum-ma UR.MAÙ ßu-ú a-di a-la-ak ‹be-lí-ia ›
i-na ru-ug-bi-im-ma úß-ßa-ab
Tr.10 be-lí li-iß-pu-ra-am
ù ßum-ma a-na πe-er be-lí-ia
ú-ßa-ar-ra-aß-ßu
Rev. be-lí li-iß-pu-ra-am
[i-n]a-an-na tup-pí be-lí-ia ú-la-ap-pí-tam
15 ù UR.MAÙ UD 5 KAM i-na li-ib-bi
ru-ug-bi-im ú-ßi-ib UR.GI7 ù ÍAÙ
id-du-ßum-ma a-ka-lam li-mu um-ma a-na-ku-ma
as-sú-ur-ri UR.MAÙ ßu-ú i≈-≈a-ad-da-ar
The nature and function of the hunt 85
ap-la-a≈-ma UR.MAÙ ße-tu
20 a-na mu-ba-al-li-iµ-µim ßa GIÍ≈i.a
ú-ße-re-eb-ma i-na giß MÁ
ú-ßa-ar-[ki-ib-ma a-na πe-er be-l]í-ia
ú-ßa-[ra-aß-ßu] 78

In the other letter, Yaqqim-Addu writes that a lioness had been captured and that he wanted
to send it, alive, to the king. He kept the lioness in a safe place to ensure that nobody would
harm it. However, the animal did not eat anything and died before the arrival of a cage.
Yaqqim-Addu asserted that he found, on examining the body of the animal, that the lioness
was old and ill, and that its death was therefore due to natural causes.

lines 1- 3: Speak to my lord, thus (says) Yaqqim-Addu, your servant.


4- 5: A lioness was captured during the night in a barn of B¬t-Akkaka.
6- 7: The next morning, I was told the news and I left.
7- 9: In order that no one killed that lion, I stayed all day at B¬t-Akkaka,
9-10: saying to myself, “I must get it (the lioness) alive to my lord.”
11-12: I threw a ... and a pig(?) to it; it killed them, left them,
13: and did not want to eat them at all.
14-16: I sent a message to Bida≈a that a cage should be brought.
16-18: (But) the day after, before the cage reached me, the lion died.
19-20: I examined this lioness; she was old and ill.
20-22: My lord may say “Someone must have killed that lion”.
22-24: If anyone has touched this lion, (I should be treated) as if (I had
broken) the taboo of my lord.
24-25: Now, because this lion is dead, I had its skin flayed and gave
(its flesh) to be eaten.
26-27: The lion was old, and it is (because) of (its) weakness that it died.

a-na be-lí-ia [qí-b]í-[ma]


um-ma Ia-qí-im-d [Addu]
warad-k[a]-a-ma
1 SAL.UR.MAÙ i-na ru-ug-bi-[im]
5 ßa B¬t-Ak-ka-kaki mu‹-ßi ›-tam iπ-πa-b[i-i]t-ma
mu-uß-te-er-tam a-na πe-ri-ia ú-[ba-a]r-ru-nim-ma
at-ta-la-a[k ù aß-ß]um la ma-≈a-[a]π UR.MAÙ ßa-a-tu

78 ARM 2, no. 106; cf. Oppenheim 1967, 108, no. 52.


86 The role of animals in the royal hunt

ka-al u4 -mi-im [i-n]a B¬t-Ak-ka-kaki


[w]a-aß-[b]a-ku um-ma a-na-k[u]-ma ba-al-µú-us-[s]ú
10 [a-n]a πe-er be-lí-ia [l]u-ßa-ak-ßi-is-[s]ú
[ x ] x [ÍA]Ù? ad-di-ßum-ma uß-ta-mi-sú-nu-ti-ma
Tr. e-zi-ib-ßu-nu-ti-[ma]
a-ka-lum-ma ú-ul i-ku-ul-ßu-[nu-t]i
a-na-k[u] a-na mu-ba-al-li-iµ-µim
15 na-ße-e-em a-na Bi-da-≈aki
Rev. aß-pu-ur a-di mu-ba-al-li-iµ-µam
ú-ßa-ak-ßi-du i-na ßa-ni-i-im
u4 -mi-im UR.MAÙ im-tu-ut
SAL.UR.MAÙ ßa-a-ti a-mu-ur ßi-ba-at
20 ù ≈a-la-at as-sú-ur-re-e-ma be-lí
ki-a-am i-qa-ab-bi um-ma-a-mi UR.MAÙ [ßa]-a-tu
ma-≈a-πú-um-mi im-≈a-πú ki-ma a-sa-ak be-lí-ia
ßum-ma UR.MAÙ ßa-a-tu ma-am-ma-an
il-pu-ut i-na-an-na ki-ma UR.MAÙ ßu-ú
25 i-mu-tu maßak-ßu úß-ki-iπ-ma a-na ßu-ku-lim ad-di-i[n]
[UR.]MAÙ ßi-ib-ma i-na ni-is-sà-tim-ma
[im-t]u {x x x } -ut { x } 79

It is noteworthy that Yaqqim-Addu refers in this letter to the king’s possible suspicion that
someone had killed the lioness. He worries that he might be suspected of having broken “the
taboo of my lord” (a-sa-ak be-lí-ia), even if someone else had harmed the lioness (lines 22-
24). The Akkadian word asakku, used here, signifies a privilege reserved for someone, so
this letter provides good evidence for the existence of a ‘hunting prohibition’ in respect of
lions. To my knowledge, no other animals are treated this way in Mesopotamia, and lions
must have occupied a special place in Mesopotamian thought. Another point to be noted is
that, once the lioness was dead, Yaqqim-Addu did not treat the carcass in a special way: he
skinned it and gave the meat away, without the king’s permission. It is deduced from this
that “the taboo of my lord” primarily concerned the act of killing, which anyone but the king
was prohibited from doing.
What was the reason for this restriction? The answer to this question must be related
to the role of the king as well as to the nature of kingship as perceived by society. Chapter I
established that in the third millennium B.C. kings were identified not only with fierce wild
animals — i.e., the lion (ppirig) and the wild bull (aam) — but also with the domesticated bull

79 ARM 14, no. 1.


The nature and function of the hunt 87
(gg u d ), as observed in Sumerian royal epithets. This association of the king with both the
wild and the domesticated species indicates that kingship was perceived as belonging to both
the wild and domestic/civilised domains. It suggests a dual role for kingship in Sumerian
society.
Society consists of a framework in which cultural order rules, and the people living
in the society are perceived as being civilised because they are kept under control like
domestic animals. Note the common metaphor in which the people are the ‘flock’ and the
king their ‘shepherd’. Society is surrounded by wild territory which contains both wild
animals and enemies, outside the cultural order and uncontrollable. These wild creatures
threaten the order of society with their dangerous forces. In early Mesopotamia, the king
alone may have been seen as belonging to both the wild and the civilised domains, but his
wild aspect distinguished him from the rest of society, and encapsulates the sacred nature of
kingship. This idea is explicitly observed in the so-called rite of regeneration practised by the
Swazi in southern Africa, who regard their king as a ‘sacred’ monster, existing outside the
cultural order as a ‘lion’.80 Strong forces, such as the power of regeneration and fertility,
which are potentially beneficial, are believed to exist outside the cultural order. These forces
are also regarded as dangerous, but they must be brought into society in a proper way at a
propitious time in order to ensure the continuity of life in the community. The symbolic
death of the Swazi king is represented by the sacrifice of an ox which is carried out at the
beginning of the ritual. It is believed that the essence of savage forces which ensure the
continuity of life in society can only be acquired, in this ritual, by the king, since he occupies
the place of conjunction between the civilised and the wild domains. The Swazi rite is
regarded by Girard as following a general pattern of sacrificial crisis incorporating original
violence.81 It demonstrates clearly the function and ideology of sacrifice, thereby providing
an ideal model for the interface of sacrifice, kingship, and the renewal of life and cultural
order.
In the Assyrian royal lion hunt, the lion must have been perceived as embodying the
essence of wild forces which were released at the moment of killing. This could explain the
hunting prohibition in respect of lions, as attested by Yaqqim-Addu’s letters. The king
functions as the only figure who is capable of bringing this power into society from the wild,
thus reinforcing the supremacy of his kingship and ensuring continuity of life for the
community. The royal bull- and lion-hunt motifs which were selected to begin the narrative
scheme of the king’s achievements in the Throne Room of Aßßurnaπirpal II may have been
intended not only to represent the king’s bravery in fighting the most powerful animals but
also to identify his kingship with that of mythological heroes: i.e., the divine hero Ninurta,

80 De Heusch 1985, 104.


81 Girard 1977, 110-116.
88 The role of animals in the royal hunt

symbolised in the royal lion hunt, and the legendary hero Gilgameß, symbolised in the bull
hunt. The king’s heroic nature and quality are thus reinforced by placing his heroic deeds in
mythological contexts, and earthly rulership was perceived as being validated by supernatural
power.
CHAPTER III
Animals used in Divine Contexts

III.1. Warlike qualities expressed by animals

Warlike qualities are attributed to several Mesopotamian deities, e.g., Ißtar, Ninurta,
Nergal/Erra, and Marduk. Human lives were always threatened by external invasion as well
as by internal rebellion in Mesopotamia. There were military conflicts between Sumerian
city states in the third millennium and, from the Akkadian period onwards, dominant
dynasties and kingdoms established their supremacy in the region by means of military
campaigns. They tended to extend their influence into adjacent foreign lands either by
military means or by diplomatic treaties. This style of government is often called
imperialism, which reached its highest point during the Neo-Assyrian and late Babylonian
periods in the first millennium. Strong military forces are indispensable for imperialism:
even though influence is extended through trade or diplomacy, the presence of superior
military forces in the background plays an important role in the negociation of a ‘peaceful’
agreement. Warlike properties were, therefore, highly desirable in the Mesopotamian deities,
who acted on behalf of their people by protecting their military activities. Military heroism
was accorded great importance by the Mesopotamians, who would have perceived battle
against hostile forces as protecting the cultural order, subduing the threat of chaotic forces
with the help of their deities. In literary texts, deities are frequently addressed as ‘hero’ or
‘heroine’: Ninurta is the “hero whose net swoops down on the enemy” (uu r . s a g
s a . ß u . u ß . k a l . b i l ú . e r í m . m a ß ú . a );1 Marduk, the “hero who avenges us” (qarrådu mut¬r
gimillini);2 Íamaß and Nergal, the “hero the young man” (qarrådu eµlu);3 Nergal and Erra,
the “hero of gods” (qarrådu il¬);4 Adad and Ninurta, the “hero of Igigi” (qarrådu ig¬gi);5 and
Ißtar, the “heroine” (qarradåtu).6
Ninurta is a deity whose warlike character as the prime monster-killer stands out from
other deities in both Sumerian and Akkadian myths. His heroic characteristics are
emphasised by such epithets as “the warrior of Enlil” (uu r . s a g d e n . l í l . l á ),7 “the fierce

1 Lugale I 13.
2 En∑ma eliß VI 163.
3 4R 17:3, Gilg. XII 78.
4 BA 5, 642, no. 10. 3; Cagni Erra I 5, 40, 130.
5 KAH 2, 89: 9, 90: 3, 91: 2; Unger Reliefstele 3.
6 SBH 136, no. IV 17, CT 42, pl. 4 iv 23.
7 Ningirsu, the local form of Ninurta at Lagaß, was already called “the warrior of Enlil” at the time of
Eannatum during the Early Dynastic period. Cf. Steible 1982, Teil I, 170, E’annatum 60, I: 1-2.
90 Animals in divine contexts

warrior” (uu r . s a g ≈ u ß ),8 and “the eternal warrior” (uu r . s a g . u l ) whose extraordinary
‘strength’ is explained as ‘the strength of a lion’ (zz à . p i r i g ).9 This ‘strength’ is explained
elsewhere in terms of the “lion’s body and lion’s muscle” (ss u p i r i g s a p i r i g . g á )10 with
which Ninurta’s battle is fought in rebellious lands. His strength is also associated with the
power of the ‘flood’ mentioned immediately before this phrase: the god’s overwhelming
power, demonstrated in battle, is compared with a “great overflowing flood” (m mè.mu
a . m a ≈ è . a . g i m k u r . r e b a . r a . a b . [èè ]) that overflows in the mountains.11 Two different
destructive properties, connoted by the lion and the flood, are associated here in order to
evoke fear integrated into a brief phrase in which Ninurta as “the devastating flood” and “the
great lion” steps into battle:

Ninurta, ... devastating flood, great lion, stepping into the battle.
(nn i n . u r t a x m a r . u r u 5 u g . g a l ß e n . ß e n . n a r u . r u . g ú )12

Ninurta’s property of fierceness, expressed by the forces of flood and lion, emphasises the
idea of floodwater gushing through enemy lands, which in turn is associated with the rapid
charge of a lion when the animal attacks its prey. The god’s cruelty and his overwhelming
power are symbolically expressed by the fierce nature of the animal and the irresistible
devastation caused by the flood. They interact in order to emphasise a quality attributed to
the god Ninurta.
Another deity whose warlike aspects are emphasised is the goddess Ißtar. In
iconography, a goddess, either armed or unarmed and accompanied by a lion, is often
regarded as representing Inanna/Ißtar (fig. 19).13 In Akkadian texts of prayer dedicated to
Ißtar, she is described as the goddess who “makes brothers who have lived in harmony fight
each other” and who “pits friend against friend”.14 It is understood from these phrases that
she is responsible for creating battle and conflict among people. In addition to her common
epithet, “strong lady of battle” (it-bur-ti be-let tu-ßá-ri), animal metaphors are used as her
divine epithets. Her fierce and warlike nature is emphasised in terms of a lion and a wild bull
both in rage:

8 Angim 8-9: Cooper 1978, 58.


9 Sjöberg 1976, 413: 1.
10 Angim 119: Cooper 1978, 74.
11 Angim 120.
12 Sjöberg 1976, 413: 2.
13 RlA 5, 88-89, §2.3.
14 Reiner & Güterbock 1967, 258-259: NB 9-10.
Warlike qualities 91
O Irnin¬tu, may your heart, a raging lion, be appeased.
May your mood, an angered wild bull, relent.
(d Ir-ni-ni-i-tum la-ab-bu na-ad-ru lìb-ba-ki li-nu-≈a
ri-i-mu ßab-ba-su-ú ka-bat-ta-ki lip-pa-áß-ra )15

In this example, the goddess is identified not only with the lion but also with the wild bull in
order to emphasise her irate (ßabbasû) mood. Both animals possess extraordinary strength;
their wild nature is uncontrollable especially when they are enraged. The same pair of
animals occurs also in the epic of Erra, in which the god says to Ißum: “in the heavens I am
a wild bull, on earth I am a lion” (ina ßamê r¬måku ina erπeti labbaku).16 Erra, described in
the same text as the “warrior of the gods”, reveals his fierce, warlike characteristics in terms
of these two wild animals, which were regarded as possessing similar qualities in this
context.
In Sumerian texts, Inanna (Ißtar in Akkadian) has the epithet ‘the lion of heaven’:

Inanna, the great storm, the lion of heaven.


(d i n a n n a u 4 . g a l p i r i g . a n . n a )17

Inanna, the lion of heaven, shining, your powers are exalted.


(d i n a n n a p i r i g . a n . n a m u l . m u l . l u m e . z u g a l a m . g a l a m . m a )18

The goddess is described as both ‘the great storm’ and ‘the lion of heaven’ in the first
example: ‘the great storm’ creates a common context, implying destructive qualities that are
also associated with the lion. However, ‘the lion of heaven’ is likely to signify the celestial
lion (Leo), as indicated by ‘shining’ in the second example, and it is not known whether the
symbolic values attributed to celestial animals were related to those of terrestrial ones. Since
the symbolism perceived in celestial entities is strongly influenced by astrology, our
discussion should not be preceded by speculation based on the values conveyed by terrestrial
animals.
Ninurta’s warlike character is also expressed by the metaphor of the wild bull. In the
Sumerian myth ‘Angim’, the divine hero is addressed by the goddess Ninlil as “the wild
bull, with fierce horns raised” (aam á ≈uß íl.[ííl]).19 In hymns to Ninurta, he is described as
“the great wild bull” (aam.gal),20 “goring like a great wild bull, who destroys the wall of the
15 Reiner & Güterbock 1967, 261-262: NB 51-52.
16 Cagni Erra I 107.
17 Heimpel 1968, 315, 36: 55.
18 Heimpel 1968, 315-316, 36: 56.
19 Angim 110: Cooper 1978, 74.
20 Sjöberg 1976, 413: 4.
92 Animals in divine contexts

enemy country” (aam.gal.gim du7 . d u 7 bàd.ki.bal[aa ] g u l . g u l ).21 In the last example, the
animal’s ability to gore is regarded as appropriate to emphasise the aggressive characteristics
of the warrior. This idea is also conveyed in an epithet of Ißtar, who is called “the wild cow
who gores the whole world” (ri-im-tum mu-nak-ki-pat kib-ra-a-ti),22 and that of Ninlil, “the
wild cow, gored my enemies with her strong horns” (Ninlil r¬mtu ... munakkip nakr∆ja ina
qarn∆ßa gasråti).23 The verbal form of the Akkadian term for “goring”, nakåpu, can be used
to describe storms and flood waves pounding as well as knocking down enemies. The
goring act of the wild bull/cow is seen as representing the powers associated with
destruction. The symbolic idea evoked by the goring act of bovine animals in the context of
battle is tangible, because the destructive aspect of the act is specified as the effect of impact
caused by goring and pounding. Thus, the visual image of the goring bull is transformed
into a concept of the impact of the heroic act. It is probably this aspect that evokes another
notion: the awe-inspiring feature of a deity expressed in terms of a wild bull is described as
the phenomenon in which the heavens and earth tremble. The god Enlil is compared to the
“wild bull who makes heavens and earth tremble”.24 The shaking of the heavens and earth is
also associated with the effect of thunder: a bull’s bellow and the noise of thunder are both
expressed by the same Akkadian words (rigmu, ßag¬mu). The two agents — i.e., the act of
goring and thunder — which make the heavens and earth tremble may be interpreted on a
symbolic level to evoke notions related to the fierce, warlike character of a bull.

21 Sjöberg 1976, 418: 121.


22 RA 13, 107, K 2001: 7.
23 Streck Asb. 78 ix 78.
24 BPP III, BA XI, 125.
Aspects of storm 93
III.2. Aspects of storm expressed by animals

Human life is surrounded and influenced by various natural phenomena that present humans
with phases of continuous change. The scale and extent of nature’s activities are
overwhelming and beyond human control. Natural phenomena inspire humans to perceive
supernatural forces that control the mechanism behind various changes occurring on earth.
The invention of supernatural entities which are personified as ‘deities’ and ‘monsters’
enabled humans to explain such phenomena. The natural phenomena discussed in this
section are rain, storms, and thunder. Deities representing these powers are associated with
particular animals, and I focus on Ninurta and Ißkur/Adad.
A characteristic representation of the storm, reflecting the idea that supernatural
entities are responsible for this natural phenomenon, is found in the motifs engraved on
cylinder seals during the Akkadian period. A male god who stands either on the back of a
lion-griffin, Anzu (discussed in Chapter V.1), or in a wagon drawn by the same creature, is
identified as the ‘storm god’,25 who is understood to embody the power of the storm (fig.
20). A female figure appears in front of the deity; she is sometimes surrounded by streams
of water (fig. 21) or holds bunches of what appears to be the representation of rainfall in
both hands (fig. 20). A bull or ox is slaughtered by a kneeling god who is thrusting a sword
into the animal’s neck (fig. 21), but this theme is not always present (fig. 20). The scene
thus shows the phenomenon of storm or rainfall represented symbolically by mythological
figures.
Difficulties lie in the identification of the male storm god in the scene. He is
sometimes assumed to be the god ‘Ißkur/Adad’, who is responsible for controlling rainfall.
According to Vanel, the West Semitic name Addu, which occurs in Mari texts, derived from
the Syrian-Anatolian region where the storm god is called Hadad and the god occupies a
chief position in the pantheon.26 It should, however, be noted that although the Sumerian
god Ißkur was known in Mesopotamia, in southern Mesopotamia he remained a god of
secondary importance,27 because farming in the south was not dependent on rain. It was
only after the beginning of the second millennium B.C. that the storm god achieved higher
status in the Mesopotamian pantheon, and this is thought to be related to the migration of the
Amorites into Mesopotamia from the region of the Middle Euphrates. They brought with

25 The god is sometimes described as the ‘weather god’. Professor G. Wilhelm once pointed out to me that
the ‘weather god’ in English may have been translated directly from the German ‘Wettergott’, in which the
‘Wetter’ (weather) specifies the bad weather accompanied by thunder — ‘Gewitter’ (thunderstorm) — and it
would, therefore, be better to refer to the god as the ‘storm god’.
26 Vanel 1965, 168.
27 Lambert 1985b, 437.
94 Animals in divine contexts

them the concept of the storm god as the major deity and gradually influenced the
Mesopotamian pantheon.28
Earlier in Mesopotamia, however, the god Ninurta/Ningirsu functioned as the storm
god in association with his divine responsibility of farming. As the Amorites settled in
Mesopotamian society sometime between the end of the third millennium and the beginning
of the second millennium B.C., it is feasible that the divine function controlling the storm
was emphasised principally by Ißkur/Adad. The independence and importance of the storm
god was then promoted. In the representations on Akkadian cylinder seals, however, the
presence of Anzu suggests the identity of the god as Ninurta/Ningirsu, following the
tradition of the preceding period (see Chapter V.1).29 On the other hand, a ‘whip’ in the
hand of the god (figs. 20, 21) associates him with Ißkur, as the whip is known from textual
sources to be one of his attributes.30 It is not known to what extent the Amorite influence
pervaded Mesopotamian society during the Akkadian period, and whether the Akkadian
population originally possessed an independent tradition of worshipping the storm god as an
important deity.
Under these circumstances, I suggest the following: the fact that this motif was
repeated many times in iconography during the Akkadian period31 indicates that the god
represented in the scene was well known and was presumably one of the major deities
during the Akkadian period. If the storm god did not occupy a major place in the Akkadian
pantheon, the identity of the god on Akkadian cylinder seals is more likely to be
Ninurta/Ningirsu than Ißkur, though it is hard to assess the degree of Amorite influence at
this stage. In addition, the presence of the chariot in the scene suggests its association with a
Ninurta myth: the chariot plays an important role in the Sumerian myth ‘Angim’, in which
the god Ninurta returns to his city, Nippur, with battle trophies hanging from various parts of
his chariot.32 The noise of Ninurta’s chariot is said to cause the ‘trembling’ effect —
“because of the sound of your chariot’s creaking, heaven and earth tremble at your
coming”33 — which can be seen as possessing a quality similar to thunder. Although the
identity of the Akkadian storm god should remain open, a good reason for identifying the
deity as Ninurta is provided by his divine function of the thunderstorm (see the discussion
below), together with the presence of Anzu and a chariot, which should also be taken into
account.

28 Vanel 1965, 159, 168-169.


29 Cf. Moortgat-Correns 1988, 117ff.
30 Tallqvist 1938, 246-249.
31 Porada 1948, fig. 220; Amiet 1980, fig. 1490; Buchanan 1966, fig. 335a; Collon 1987, figs. 726, 779;
Frankfort 1939, pl. XXII-d; Boehmer 1965, figs. 364, 367-374.
32 Angim 32ff.: Cooper 1978, 62-63.
33 Angim 83-84: Cooper 1978, 70-71.
Aspects of storm 95
Ninurta’s divine responsibility for the storm, flood, and water is often observed in
Sumerian texts,34 and these divine aspects are expressed in terms of the lion:

(Ninurta) the frightening storm, the opponent of the rebellious land, a lion.
(uu 4 . ≈ u . l u ≈ . ≈ a s a g . D U . k i . b a l . a p i r i g ) 35

In this example, Ninurta’s aspect as the storm that has a frightening effect is identified with a
lion (pp i r i g ). The frightening property of the storm is expressed by the Sumerian word
≈ u . l u ≈ . ≈ a (galåtu in Akkadian), a quality which makes someone frightened or restless
instinctively. The frightening property is also attributed to the lion, with which Ninurta is
identified:

Ninurta, like an awe-inspiring and frightening lion.


(d n i n . u r t a p i r i g . ≈ u ß . ≈ u . l u ≈ . ≈ a . g i m ) 36

The ability to frighten is thus commonly perceived in the lion and the storm; both aspects are
incorporated in the divine character of Ninurta. Apart from the devastation caused by a
storm or deluge, other visual and auditory aspects of the phenomena should be taken into
consideration. The sight of these phenomena — the darkened sky, heavy rolling clouds, and
the flash of lightning — must have inspired instant fear and awe, and the tremendous noise
of storms, comprising the howling of wind, rain, thunder, and gushing water, is no less
frightening.
A particular auditory aspect provides a clue that links this natural phenomenon with
the lion. It should be noted that, in the representations on Akkadian cylinder seals, Anzu is
always depicted in a characteristic posture: Anzu stands and, without exception, lowers its
head towards the ground with its mouth wide open. This is actually the posture typical of
real lions when they roar.37 Anzu here clearly shows its leonine characteristics, and its
function in the scene should be understood from this explicit roaring posture. It must have
been assumed in ancient time that anyone who looked at the scene would recognise what this
posture implied, and this would have been a commonplace where lions were indigenous,
since people had the opportunity to observe the animal’s habits. The intention is to evoke
notions connected with the ‘lion’s roar’ from its posture; the characteristic posture of the
animal draws out its unique auditory aspect. The aim of representing the lion’s roar is to

34 Ninurta as storm: Gudea Cyl. A, XXIII 20; ZANF 15, 110: 14, 122: 51, 131: Rs 2; Ninurta as flood:
Gudea Cyl. A, X 2; ZANF 15, 116: 26, c. 2; Ninurta responsible for water process: ‘Ninurta and Turtle’,
JCS 24, 120-125.
35 BE 29, 1 iii 25; Heimpel 1968, 36.64.
36 ZANF 5, 118, 7-8; Heimpel 1968, 36.4.
37 Grzimek 1972, 353-363.
96 Animals in divine contexts

explain the noise of thunder by the shared capacity to evoke awe and fear, and this is how the
Mesopotamians understood this particular phenomenon, in terms of the animal. According
to Animal Life Encyclopedia, among the properties of the lion perceived by humans as
impressive, such as the maned head of the male and the amber eyes (which are larger than
human eyes), above all the roar of the lion deserves special comment. The lion is apparently
the only big cat that really possesses the ability to roar, and the sound of the roar can be
heard at a distance of up to 8 or 9 km. Lions tend to roar most mightily shortly after sunset
for a period of one hour, and clouds of dust are often observed because the lion expels air so
forcefully. The sound of the lion’s roar is described by zoologists as “the most magnificent
and impressive sound in all creation”.38 At close range it is so loud that people literally ‘fall
out of their beds’, so great are the sound and the vibration produced by the roar. In the
representations on Akkadian cylinder seals, this extraordinary effect of the animal’s roar is
intended to explain the noise of thunder, and the role of Anzu in the scene is to embody this
particular phenomenon of the storm, which is controlled by the storm god. Anzu not only
produces the noise of thunder but creates storm clouds by expelling air against earth, in the
same way that real lions stir up dust clouds when they roar.
The lion’s roar is usually expressed in Akkadian as na’åru, ragåmu, and ßagåmu in
verbal form, with the corresponding adjectives nå’iru, rågimu, and ßågimu. The verbs
ragåmu, ßagåmu and ramåmu, with their nominal form rigmu, ßag¬mu, and råmimu, are used
generally to describe the noise produced by various animals, such as the barking of a dog,
the bellowing of a bull, and the bleating of sheep, whereas the use of na’åru/nå’iru is limited
to the roar of a lion or the howling sound of a bird, though the occurrence of the latter is not
frequent. This signifies that some features of the lion’s roar were perceived as having special
nuances which distinguish it from the sounds uttered by other animals. In later Akkadian
texts, the first three words, ragåmu, ßagåmu, and ramåmu, are commonly used for the noise
of thunder, such as the “roar of Adad” (rigim Adad),39 “like Adad, at his roar” (k¬ma Adad
ana ßagimmeßu),40 and “Adad roars” (Adad i-ra[-am]-mu-um).41 The last word, na’åru,
connotes a raging property that accompanies the auditory aspect of roaring. In a lexical text,
nå’iri, with kadu≈≈û (lit. ‘wide-open mouth’), is equated with ßegû (‘raging’), which
suggests that the roar of the lion was perceived as the raging sound produced from the
‘wide-open mouth’ of the animal. The rage perceived in the lion’s roar is associated with the
visual image of the animal opening its mouth, as well as with the idea of storms. When a
Sumerian text mentions that “the utterance of the sovereign is a storm, the word of lord

38 Grzimek 1972, 357.


39 YOS 10, 18, 47.
40 AfO 18, 50 Y 14.
41 ACh. Adad, 20: 32, 19: 28, 17: 21.
Aspects of storm 97
Ninurta is a storm”,42 Ninurta’s ‘utterance’ and ‘word’ may imply the noise of thunder that
is associated with the lion’s roar.
In the case of the association of the storm god Ißkur/Adad with the bull, the god is
described in his epithet as “the horned wild bull” (aam si.mú a.a d i ß k u r . r a : r¬mu qarnû abi
dAdad)43 as well as “the fierce young bull (symbol) of Adad” (b∑ru ekdu ßa d IM). 44 In
Sumerian texts, Ißkur is attributed with epithets of both a m (wild bull)45 and g u d
(bull/ox).46 In the second millennium B.C., Íeriß (d GUD) is known to be one of the two
“bulls of Adad” (gg u d . di ß k u r . k e 4) whose name appears together with that of Hurriß as the
animals drawing the chariot of Teßßup, the Hurrian storm god.47 The association of the
storm god Ißkur/Adad with the bull calf and the wild bull is also observed in Akkadian
personal names such as A m a r - di ß k u r (The Calf of Ißkur),48 B∑r-d Adad (The Male Calf of
Adad),49 d Adad-r¬m-ili (Adad [is] the Wild Bull of the gods),50 and R¬m-d Adad (The Wild
Bull of Adad).51 In iconography, it is only after the beginning of the second millennium
B.C. that the storm god is represented in close association with the bull. In the first half of
the second millennium B.C., the god is represented standing on the back of a bull, holding its
nose-rope in one hand and a two- or three-pronged lightning fork in the other (fig. 22).52 On
cylinder seals from the same period, the god is sometimes replaced by his symbol: the bull
with a lightning fork.53 In these scenes, the inscriptions accompanying the pictorial
representation frequently include the name of Adad: “servant of Adad (ììr d I ß k u r )”54 or
“Adad, son of Anu (d I ß k u r d u m u a n . n a )”. 55 During the Middle and Neo-Assyrian
periods, Adad is represented standing on the back of a bull and holding an axe in his hand
(fig. 23).56
The association of bovine animals with the storm god has been suggested by the fact
that both the noise of thunder and the bellow of a bull are expressed by the same Akkadian
words.57 For example, rigmu (the nominal form of ragåmu) is not only used for the noise of

42 Angim 16-17: Cooper 1978, 56-61.


43 SBH 23, no. 10, r. 10.
44 MDP 2, 90 iv 17.
45 Heimpel 1968, 3.64: STVC 57, 1; SBH 1 Rs. 34.
46 Heimpel 1968, 5.82-1: CT 15, 15, 1; SBH 9 Rs. 28-29.
47 Wiggermann 1992, 178-179; RlA 4, 506b; Wilhelm 1989, 49-50.
48 Limet 1968, 69.
49 Stamm 1939, 261; CT 2, 28: 19 and passim in OB.
50 Stamm 1939, 226.
51 Stamm 1939, 259.
52 Collon 1986, figs. 398, 447, 449, 452-461.
53 Collon 1986, figs. 244-251.
54 Collon 1986, figs. 244, 246, 249.
55 Collon 1986, figs. 245, 248, 251.
56 For the Middle Assyrian representation, see Wiseman 1958, fig. 6. The god on the left has now been
identified as Adad: see Moortgat-Correns 1988, 117, note 3. For the Neo-Assyrian representations, see Collon
1987, figs. 573, 792.
57 Lambert 1985b , 436.
98 Animals in divine contexts

thunder (rigma Adad) but also for the bellow of a bull/ox (rigim alpi).58 Similarly, the verb
ramåmu is used for the bellow of a bull (k¬ma alpi irammum)59 as well as for the noise of
thunder (Adad i-ra[-am]-mu-um),60 and its nominal form is identified with the god Adad
(dRa-mi-mu=d Adad).61 Although the noise produced by a bull is not as loud or magnificent
as the roar of the lion, it may have evoked a similar idea of the noise of thunder.

58 ACh. Adad 11, 13.


59 ABAW NF 16, 4, 14.
60 ACh. Adad 20, 32; 19, 28; 17, 21.
61 CT 25, 16, 24.
Agricultural aspects 99
III.3. Agricultural aspects expressed by the bull

The association of the bull with the concept of agriculture goes back to the Neolithic period,
when animal domestication and the technology of agriculture were dramatically improved.
Domestication of the bovine animals enabled humans to control a natural resource which was
extremely useful. Once the bovine animals were tamed, humans acquired a constant supply
of cow’s milk, which was the source of a wide range of dairy produce that formed an
important part of the Mesopotamian diet. In addition, the animal itself can be used not only
for meat and leather but also for drawing the plough, and the cart for the transportation of
products. Agriculture has a dual aspect, animal herding and cultivation, in which human
intervention is extended into the area of the wild, involving both animal and plant life. In this
section, the idea of animal domestication conveyed by the bull is discussed first, followed by
the association of the animal with cultivation and with a deity responsible for agriculture.
A particular type of deposition of bovine heads (bucrania) and horns is attested at
Çatal Höyük, a Neolithic site in Anatolia. Numerous bucrania and bulls’ horns were
excavated inside what are now thought to be houses, in which they had been used to decorate
the walls and internal platforms.62 Çatal Höyük is dated to the late seventh to sixth
millennium bc, but the religious significance of the bucrania seems to have developed from
an even earlier ritual practice. As early as 8200 bc, the practice of depositing bucrania inside
benches or in other projecting blocks of clay existed at Mureybet IB and II in the Middle
Euphrates region.63 The bucrania are sometimes accompanied by the scapulae of bulls and
donkeys, and at other times they are separated so that the bones and horns are arranged in the
benches with the scapulae.64 The horns of the hunted bulls are set beneath a figure
interpreted as the ‘great goddess’, who is shown giving birth. Among numerous remains of
bucrania at Çatal Höyük, one of the most striking objects is a rectangular bench from which
project seven sets of bulls’ horns (fig. 24).65 The horns are arranged one behind the other,
and all are identified as those of the wild bull, Bos primigenius.66 It is a characteristic
practice of hunting societies to collect certain bones, such as the skull and the thigh bones, of
the animal killed in the hunt, in order to deposit them in a holy place.67 This widespread
practice is regarded by Burkert as an act of returning the animal consumed to some
supernatural owner, and through the ritual performed afterwards in certain forms of
purification, the feeling of guilt caused by the act of killing is mitigated and the killing itself is
atoned for.
62 Mellaart 1967, 87ff., figs. 14-23, 25-26, 28, 30, 32-42.
63 Cauvin 1978, 110-111.
64 Cauvin 1985, 25.
65 Mellaart 1967, 42, pl. 16.
66 Mellaart 1967, 118.
67 Burkert 1979, 54-56.
100 Animals in divine contexts

Various possibilities have been suggested concerning the symbolism of bucrania, and
these may be summarised as follows. First, the bull together with other herbivorous animals
is perceived as symbolising the ‘masculine principle’, in contrast to the ‘feminine principle’
symbolised by feline animals, other carnivorous mammals, and birds of prey. 68 In the
symbolism observed at Çatal Höyük, women and feline animals are closely associated.
Mellaart observes that female figurines are associated with children and leopards, and
statuettes of men are associated with bulls,69 although the evidence for the latter seems
insufficient. Unusually, Cameron perceives bucrania in general as ‘female symbolism’, in
which the bucranium represents the essential female organ;70 the uterus looks like the skull
of the bull and the uterine tubes curve like the bull’s horns in frontal view. Mellaart has
suggested that the bull’s head is also associated with the symbol of the great goddess giving
birth: the goddess is holding a young animal at Çatal Höyük.71 Finally, the bucranium is
perceived to be associated with funerals; it plays an important role in the rites of passage
from life to death.72 The interpretation of bucrania is much debated, and it is difficult to
suggest any interpretation which is supported by strong evidence for this extremely early
period, yet I think that the symbolism of the bull must have originated from man’s experience
of the animal, and it is inevitably based on the experience of hunting wild bulls and later
controlling them.
Hodder has rightly pointed out that domestication would potentially affect the
symbolism linked to the wild, especially as captured aurochs became domesticated cattle.73
In my view, the numerous bucrania found at Çatal Höyük are to be understood as a
depository act after the hunt: the bones and the horns were accorded rites in order to appease
the soul of the victim, through which the hunter’s feeling of guilt was mitigated. However,
the fact that only bucrania were treated in this special way at Çatal Höyük suggests that the
bull was perceived as more than a mere victim of the hunt. The hunting of the wild bull was
dangerous because of the animal’s fierce nature and extraordinary power. The successful
hunting of the wild bull and its later domestication must have been perceived as great
achievements. Animal domestication enabled humans to exploit animals within the
framework of the cultural order, and by doing so they no longer needed to fear starvation.
The bucrania displayed at Çatal Höyük seem to manifest the psychology behind the Neolithic
revolution. Towards the end of the Neolithic period, the symbolism of the bull may have
been closely associated with the drive to ‘tame’ the wild. The wild domain surrounds
society, threatening human life with its dangerous forces. With domestication, however, the
68 Cauvin 1985, 27.
69 Mellaart 1967, 178-203.
70 D.O. Cameron 1981, 4-5.
71 Mellaart 1985, 40.
72 Chaix 1985, 34.
73 Hodder 1990, 52.
Agricultural aspects 101
cultural order was extended into the wild to bring it under cultural control. The bull
symbolises the concept of animal domestication: the same animal conveys the symbolism of
a dangerous wild force that can be turned into a most useful natural resource by successfully
taming it.
The motif of the bull represented together with crops occurs commonly in art from
the fourth to the early third millennium B.C. For example, a steatite bowl from Ur is
decorated with reliefs of bulls and ears of corn, each of them appearing to sprout from the
back of the animal (fig. 25).74 The same motif appears frequently on seals from the same
period (fig. 26).75 The bovine animal has a dual symbolism, relating the animal both to the
notion of the wild and to civilisation, since a wild bull/cow can be tamed by human
intervention and bred as domestic. Once the animal is domesticated and used for agricultural
activities in the fields, it links two types of domestication: animal herding and cultivation.
What is symbolised by the depiction of a bull and crops can be seen as representing these
two aspects of agriculture. The domesticated species was used for ploughing, which caused
the animal to be associated with the fertility of plant life.
Among the gods who are responsible for agriculture, Ninurta is explicitly attested in
the Sumerian text known as ‘Farmer’s Instruction’. In this text, Ninurta gives instructions to
farmers on ploughing, furrowing, and threshing, and is called the ‘faithful farmer of Enlil’.76
Ninurta’s association with agricultural activities is also described in a Sumerian hymn
dedicated to Enlil: “Ninurta puts the holy plough in good order, and ploughs the fertile field.
So that the silos and granaries of Enlil may be piled high, he drops fertile seed”
(d n i n . u r t a . k e 4 g i ßapin.kù.ge si nam.mi.in.sá [ g á n ].zi na.uru4 r u
g u r 7 . d u 6 . g u r 7 . m a ß . d e n . l í l . l á . k e 4 g ú . g u r . g u r . r u . d è n u m u n . z i n a . m u . g a r ) .7 7
Ninurta’s association with the ‘plough’ is attested in an astrological text,78 and in Kassite
kudurrus the picture of a plough is captioned as ‘the symbol of Ningirsu’79, the local divine
form of Ninurta at Girsu.
Another divine function of Ninurta is to control water as a ‘canal inspector’
(ggú.gal): for example, in Akkadian texts, Ninurta is called ‘fierce canal inspector’ (gugallu
ßamru)80 ‘who brings water to cattle pen, garden plot, house, street and city’ ([mu-ßá-a]ß-qu-
u tarbaπi irmû b¬ti s∑qi u åli).81 Water is indispensable for the successful growth of plants
and the harvesting of crops, which are further associated with the notion of fertility. The bull

74 PKG 18, 71a; Strommenger 1964, fig. 28.


75 Strommenger 1964, fig. 16; Amiet 1980, figs. 397-399, 404.
76 Civil 1994, 32-33: 109.
77 Civil 1968, 5-7: 86-88.
78 K 4339, III 30; cf. Gössmann ÍL IV/2, 39 I 4.
79 RA 34, 42; Seidl 1989, 125-128.
80 AKA 256 i 5.
81 bin.ßar.dadm∆ I 6.
102 Animals in divine contexts

links animal domestication with the fertility of plant life through its connection with the
plough. Water, on the other hand, links the fertility of plant life with sexual fertility, since the
Sumerian term for water, a , is equated with ‘semen’: for example, ‘[ee] a is semen’ ([ee] a =
ni-i-lu),82 and ‘aa is semen for sexual intercourse’ (aa = ni-lum ßá re-≈e-e).83 An Akkadian
word for semen (n¬lu) is further equated with the beneficial flood of the rivers (illu, m¬lu):
‘flood is flood, semen’ (il-lu A.KAL = m¬lu, ni-’-lu),84 ‘la-a KAL is (that) of flood, semen,
of waters’ (la-a KAL = ßá A.KALil-lu ni-’-lu ßá A.ME).85 Ninurta’s divine function to
control water thus has dual aspects which are interrelated. His divine responsibility for the
plough associates the notion of fertility with the agricultural involvement of the bovine
animals.

82 MSL II, 126 ii 13.


83 Antagal III 215.
84 Diri III 131-131a.
85 EA IV 306, A IV/4: 304.
Sexual fertility and fecundity 103
III.4. Sexual fertility and fecundity expressed by animals

The goddess Inanna/Ißtar is often identified in art by her associated animal, the lion, which
was also used to represent her particular aspects in warlike contexts (Chapter III.1). The
divine epithet ‘lioness’ is used for the goddess as follows:

Magnificent one, lioness among the Igigi, who makes the angry gods relent.
(ßu-pu-ú-tum la-ab-bat d Í-gì-gì mu-kan-ni-ßat DINGIR.ME(!) ßab-su-ti)86

She calmed down, her heart quieted down, the lioness Ißtar.
(i-nu-u≈ ip-ßa-a≈ li-ib-ba-ßa la-ba-tu Eßdar) 87

Enlil opened his mouth to speak to the lioness Ißtar.


(d Enlil påßu ¬pußamma izzakkar ana labatim Ißtar) 88

The epithet ‘lioness’ (labbatu ) is a unique title exclusively attributed to the goddess
Inanna/Ißtar,89 and its occurrence reveals particular aspects of the deity emphasised in terms
of the animal. In the first example, the goddess is described as making the angry gods relent.
Her warlike aspects are pushed into the background; instead her feminine charm is
emphasised, acting to calm the enraged hearts of the gods. In the second example, the
goddess herself is portrayed as being calmed down, as her anger passes over. Both
examples contrast with that of the ‘lion’ metaphor applied to the goddess in the context of
warlike qualities, in which her angry heart was explained in terms of a raging ‘lion’. The
‘lioness’ epithet is used only when her heart is at peace, emphasising the feminine aspects
that correspond to the gender of the animal; it never occurs in warlike contexts. There is a
personal name Si-la-ba-at (she is a lioness)90 and a divine name d Íi-la-bàt91 or d Íi-la-ba-at,92
in which the primary subject ‘she’ (si/ßi) is understood as implying Inanna/Ißtar on account
of the exclusive use of the epithet.
Inanna/Ißtar has a divine function of responsibility for sexual fertility, which is best
described in the Akkadian myth ‘The Descent of Ißtar to the Netherworld’. In this myth, she
appears as the essential figure that causes sexual desire in all creatures; as soon as she
disappears from the earth, sexuality on earth disappears:
86 Reiner & Güterbock 1967, 261: NB 31.
87 RA 15, 181, viii 23-24 (OB).
88 CT 15, 6 vii 5 (OB).
89 CAD, ‘L’, 23 under labbatu: ‘attested only as epithet of Ißtar’.
90 MAD 1, 219 s.v.
91 RAcc 114: 12.
92 Ugaritica 5, no. 119: 153.
104 Animals in divine contexts

As soon as (var. after) Ißtar went down to the land of no return, the bull does not
jump on the cow, the male donkey does not make the female-donkey pregnant, the
man does not make the woman pregnant in the street. The man lay down in his
private room. The woman lay down by herself.
(ul-tu ul-la-nu-um-ma93 d Iß-tar a-na KUR.NU.GI4 ú-ri-du a-na bur-ti GU4 ul i-ßa≈-
≈i-iµ ANÍE EMÈ ul ú-ßá-ra ar-da-tum ina SILA ul ú-ßá-ra [eµ]-lu it-til eµ-lu i-na kum-
[m]i(?)-ßú it-til ar-da-tum i-na a-≈i-[ti(?)]-ßá )94

This suggests that the goddess represents an indispensable power which drives animals and
humans to engage in love-making. What links this divine function with the lion can be
observed in the animal’s habits. Lions are known for their extraordinary mating behaviour:
during their mating season they mate on average thirty to forty times a day.95 The lioness
plays an important role at the beginning of the session: she may ‘tease’ the male, often
flipping her tail tuft under his nose to make sure he has a whiff of her scent. The female
often taunts the male by rolling on her back or sliding totally beneath him in a snakelike
manoeuvre. As the male begins his courtship role, following the lioness around, attempting
to caress her, he is often spat upon and sometimes cuffed repeatedly on the jaw.96 This
violent prelude is followed by the vigorous sexual act with hisses, snarls, roars, and dust-
raising. Thus, lions have been perceived as prone to excess in sexuality, and were closely
associated with the concept of sexual desire. The use of the lion as a symbol of passion is,
for example, a standard feature of ascetic Christian exegesis.97 In the Akkadian Epic of
Gilgameß, the lion is counted among Ißtar’s past lovers who were treated badly by the
goddess: “You loved the lion full of strength (but) you dug seven and seven pits for him”
(a-ra-mi-ma UR.MAÙ ga-mì-ir e-mu-qi tu-u≈-tar-ri-iß-ßu 7 u 7 ßu-ut-ta-a-ti).98 This leonine
lover suggests her fertility aspects, represented by the lion/lioness which embodies the strong
forces of sexual desire.
The lion appears in a text of incantation for sexual potency, in which the goddess
Ißtar is frequently mentioned together with other goddesses, such as Iß≈ara and Nanaya, who
are also responsible for sexual fertility. In one text, the lion is mentioned with the bull at the
beginning of one incantation: “Incantation. Lion! Bull! ...”.99 In another text, the lion is
mentioned for the purpose of obtaining sexual potency together with the person who is to be
93 variation in line 76: ar-ki.
94 Descent of Ißtar, 86-90; duplicated 76-80.
95 Grzimek 1975, 358: it is recorded that one male was seen copulating 157 times in 55 hours and one pair in
the Dresden zoo mated 360 times in eight days.
96 Hedren & Taylor 1985, 82.
97 Jackson 1985, 212.
98 Gilg. VI 51-52.
99 Biggs 1967, no. 10, 34: ÉN UR.MAÙ lu-u xx [...].
Sexual fertility and fecundity 105
treated by the incantation: “Let a lion get an erection along with you!”.100 Goddesses who
appear in this text are believed to endow the man with sexual potency — i.e., an erection —
to enable him to have sexual intercourse. Ißtar’s role is equivalent to that of the lioness in
bringing the male into the situation of ‘lifted mind’ (ßß à . z i . g a ) making him capable of sex.
Acquisition of sexual potency may be achieved by the intervention of the goddess whose
forces control this phenomenon and they seem to be associated with creatures of the wild.
The principal animals whose names are invoked in these incantations are: the lion (nƧu), the
wild bull (r¬mu), the stag (ajalu), and the wild donkey (akkannu). Expressions such as “Get
excited like a stag! Get an erection like a wild bull!”101 and “Make love to me, and like a pig
fourteen times, like a wild bull fifty times, like a stag fifty times!”102 reflect admiration and
the wish to practise masculinity like these wild animals which exhibit a healthy sexual nature.
The extraordinary mating behaviour of a lion and lioness may have been interpreted in two
different ways. On the one hand, the animals are seen as ‘alterity’, different from humans,
so they can behave uninhibitedly following only their natural instinct, which would normally
be restricted in the case of humans living in an urban community, owing to the conventions
imposed on them. On the other hand, great envy and admiration are projected onto the
animals, reflecting a desire to behave like them.
In the case of the bull used in the context of fertility, the symbolism conveyed by the
animal has different aspects according to the animal’s status, wild or domesticated. The wild
bull embodies virility, as its name appears among the animals that are invoked repeatedly in
the incantation for potency. On the other hand, the domesticated species conveys the notions
of fertility which are closely associated with the animal’s role in ploughing. This association
is made explicit in the epic of Inanna concerning her sacred marriage:

(Inanna composes a song for her vulva:)


As for me, my vulva, for me the piled-high hillock, me — the maid, who will plough
it for me? My vulva, the watered ground — for me, me, the Queen, who will station
the ox there?
(The answer is given:)
Oh Lordly Lady, the king will plough it for you, Dumuzi, the king, will plough it for
you.
(Inanna responds:)
Plough my vulva, man of my heart.103

100 Biggs 1967, no. 6, 3: it-ti-ka lit-ba-a ni-e-ßú .


101 Biggs 1967, nos. 6: 2, 7: 7, 8: 2.
102 Biggs 1967, no. 12: 18-19.
103 Kramer 1969, 59.
106 Animals in divine contexts

The epic then continues with an account of vegetation flourishing: “At the king’s lap stood
the rising cedar, Plants rose high by his side, Grain rose high by his side, ...”. The “rising
cedar” may be seen as a metaphor for the phallus. In this text, Inanna’s sexual body part is
compared to the “watered ground”, and Dumuzi, the “man of my (Inanna’s) heart”, appears
to ‘plough’ her vulva. Eliade observed that the act of ploughing is universally associated
with that of sexual intercourse.104 It must be noted that the placing of the ‘ox’ is used as a
metaphor for an act of intercourse between Inanna and Dumuzi as an alternative expression
for ‘ploughing’. In this metaphor, ‘sperm’ is compared to ‘seed’; the former is to be
deposited in the womb and the latter planted in the soil of the fields. The association of
sperm with seed appears also in the hymn addressed to Ninurta, the farmer of Enlil, in which
Ninurta’s ‘life-giving semen’ is compared to ‘life-giving seed’.105
A clear difference between the domesticated species (the bull/ox) and the wild species
(the wild bull and the lion), with respect to the symbolism of fertility, is that sexual fertility
symbolised by the former is often associated with the act of ‘sowing’. Therefore the act of
love-making is related to seed-planting which would in due course produce new life, thus
symbolising the notion of fecundity. By contrast, the symbolism of fertility conveyed by the
wild species is mainly focused on the sexual urge and its act, in which the idea of procreation
and new life is absent. In both cases, the ideas related to sexual fertility are based on the
male perception of sexuality. Domestic bovine animals conveying the notion of fecundity are
observed in the representation of a herd of cattle with their calves coming out of a hut,106 and
that of a cow with its calf.107

104 Eliade 1959, 166-167.


105 Kramer 1969, 54.
106 Amiet 1980, figs. 628, 629, 632.
107 Amiet 1980, fig. 1272.
The visual image of animals 107
III.5. The visual image of animals evoking divine notions

The association of the lion and the sun god Íamaß is observed in texts and art. For example,
in one of the Íulgi hymns the king is described as ‘the lion of the sun god’:

I (=Íulgi) am the lion of the sun god Utu with (its) mouth open
(pp i r i g . k a . d u ≈ . a . d u t u . ù . m e . e n )108

In iconography, a cylinder seal from the first half of the second millennium is engraved with
the figure of a lion that appears immediately behind the sun god Íamaß, who sits on a throne
decorated with a pattern of mountains and rests his feet on a couchant human-headed bull
(fig. 27).109 The god holds a saw-toothed blade and in front of him stands the king, who is
followed by a suppliant goddess. A sun-disc surrounded by a crescent is depicted between
the king and the god, and the inscription engraved above the figure of the lion reads: “d utu
d a-a” (Íamaß and Aya). A lion is shown also in the scene where the deified king sits on a
throne faced by a worshipper and the suppliant goddess; above the lion appears the same
inscription of the two divine names ‘Íamaß’ and ‘Aya’.110 Another cylinder seal is engraved
with a picture of the sun god standing in front of the king, who is followed by the suppliant
goddess; the god holds a saw-toothed blade in his hand and behind him appear the figures
of the human-headed bull and the lion. The human-headed bull is believed to be associated
with the sun god111 and is called the ‘emblem of Utu’ on the Gudea Cylinder.112 It is true
that numerous Old Babylonian seals have the divine names of Íamaß and Aya written on
them, sometimes regardless of the theme of the pictorial representation on the seal.
However, the fact that the figure of the lion often occurs together with the human-headed bull
in the scene where the sun god is represented as a central figure suggests its close association
with the deity. It is noteworthy that the lion is always shown with its mouth open in these
scenes. This agrees with the description of the lion to which Íulgi compares himself: ‘lion
of Utu with mouth open’.
What aspects of the sun god are represented by the lion? To the best of my
knowledge, the two have no obvious qualities in common. This may be because of the lack
of information about the character of the sun god. However, one possibility is to focus on
the visual image of the lion, which evokes notions associated with the sun. The lion’s amber
eyes flash like fire in the reflection of light in darkness, which may have been seen as

108 Íulgi A 14: cf. Klein 1981, 188.


109 Collon 1986, figs. 96, 367.
110 Collon 1986, figs. 68, 69.
111 Wiggermann 1992, 174ff., especially ibid. 176, note 10.
112 Gudea Cyl. A, XXVI 4.
108 Animals in divine contexts

‘emitting’ light like the sun. In addition, the mane surrounding the face of the male has an
awe-inspiring quality and may have evoked in humans a similar psychological response to
the sight of a radiant entity. The property of awesomeness is often closely associated with
the perception of luminousness that evokes a sense of something ‘sacred’. The lion must
have been perceived as possessing the properties of inspiring awe and emitting radiance
which are symbolically represented by its eyes and mane. These properties, as attributed to
the lion, are described in the Sumerian myth known as ‘Gilgameß and the Land of the
Living’. The lion is said to have received one of the seven me.lám (an awe-inspiring sheen)
which were detached from Humbaba’s head after he was slain by Gilgameß and Enkidu,
who presented Humbaba’s head to Enlil.113 Elsewhere, the animal’s ‘awesomeness’ (nn í ) is
compared to that of the king: “like a lion, on the royal stand, clad in awesomeness (ní)”
(pp i r i g . g i m k i . l u g a l . g u b . t a n í í l . l a . m u . d è ),114 and to that of the gods: “a lion which is
the awesome glow of the gods” (uu r . m a ≈ n í . d i n g i r . r e . n e . k a m ).115 The n í can be
interpreted as a palpable presentation of me.lám, both connoting a luminous phenomenon.
In Akkadian texts, ‘awesome radiance’ (ßalummatu ) is used to describe the luminous
property of gods and kings, which is also attributed to the lion. In one text, the god Ea is
said to have sent the “awesome radiance of lions and death” (ßalummat UR.MAÙ.[MEÍ]
m∑tam),116 and elsewhere the lion’s radiance is quoted together with ‘night’ and ‘death’.117
The radiant property of the lion mentioned in association with ‘death’ and ‘night’ may
indicate the animal’s eyes reflecting in the dark, which evoke ideas related to death. The
ideas of radiance are combined with the visual image of the mane surrounding the face of a
lion, which can be seen as similar to the rays projected by the sun.
In the case of the bull, the association of the animal with the moon god can also be
seen in the similarity of their visual image. The association is found in seal impressions from
the Early Dynastic period: a bull appears in the centre of the scene, accompanied by a human
figure who holds in each hand a standard with a crescent on top; in front of the bull stands a
naked man lifting his hand towards the animal in a posture of worship.118 In this scene, the
bull symbolises the moon god, and the ‘crescent’ on top of the standard held behind the
animal specifies the identity of the deity shown in the scene. The combination of the bull and
crescent to represent the moon god is also observed in another seal impression, where the
standard with crescent is set on a base that takes the form of two hoofed bovine legs.119 The
crescent standard with hoofed base appears again on an Akkadian cylinder seal, where the

113 Cf. Cassin 1968, 64.


114 Íulgi A 56; Klein 1981, 194.
115 Gudea Cyl. A, XXVI 7.
116 KBo 19, 98, col. b 10.
117 AnSt 5, 102, 94: ßalummat n∆ßi m∑ßi m∑tu.
118 Amiet 1980, fig. 1282.
119 Amiet 1980, fig. 1180: lower register.
The visual image of animals 109
god is now represented in an anthropomorphic form and holding the standard as his divine
attribute (fig. 28).120 In some representations in the Akkadian period, the crescent standard
appears without its base and held by the anthropomorphic god.121 Elsewhere the hoofed
base, separated from the crescent top, appears by itself as an attribute of the god who holds
it.122 In both cases, the god represented in the scene holds a mace in the other hand. In the
Old Babylonian period at Mari, the association of the moon with the bull is observed in some
wall paintings from the palace, where a bull/ox whose forehead is decorated with a crescent
is shown being taken in procession, presumably for a ritual purpose (fig. 29). 123 In an
incantation text for childbirth, the god takes the form of a wild bull and impregnates his cow,
named Geme-Sin.124
The god Sin is called the ‘lord of the horn’ (d Sîn b∆l qarni),125 and the Akkadian term
for the ‘horn’ (qarnu) is used for both the horns of animals and the cusp of the moon,
usually referring to that of the crescent moon:

At the beginning of the month, while rising over the land, you shine with horns to
mark out six days
(na r∆ß ar≈imma napå≈i eli måti qarni nabâta ana uddû 6 ∑m¬ )126

The association of the moon god Nanna with the bull is found in Sumerian divine epithets:
“fierce young bull with very thick horns” (aa m a r . b à n . d a s i . g u r 4 . g u r 4 . r a )127 or a “fierce
young bull of Heaven” (aa m a r . b à n . d a . a n . n a ).128 The Akkadian qarnu refers to the horns
of celestial bodies, such as the moon and Venus, as well as to the visible part of the moon’s
and sun’s disk during an eclipse.129 In an Akkadian ritual text, the association of the cow
with the half moon is explained as follows:

120 Boehmer 1965, fig. 437.


121 Collon 1982, fig. 164.
122 Boehmer 1965, fig. 376.
123 Moortgat 1969, figs. 202, 203.
124 Veldhuis 1991. See Chapter I.2 (p. 59).
125 RA 12, 191: 7.
126 En∑ma eliß V 16.
127 Heimpel 1968, 9.5.
128 UET 8, 37, 1.
129 CAD, ‘Q’, 137-138, under qarnu 3.
110 Animals in divine contexts

[Cow (ááb.kar) is Sin.] áb is ar≈u as cow; ar≈u (as half brick) is half shape.
kar is the sloping form of the gána sign; pronounced karu: to damage,
pronounced gana: area. A half crown on the 7th day: a kidney shape: Ea.
([I áb.kar d sîn] ap-pa ár-≈u li-it-tu ár-≈u lit-tu maß-l[u4 ] ka-ra ga-na-te!-nu-ú
ka-ru µa-pa-la ga-na a.ßà maß-lu4 agû ud.7.kam ka15-lit d é-a)130

In this text, ‘cow’ appears as one of the three names given to Sin: each name is attributed
according to the shape of the moon, and it is the half moon (a ‘kidney shape’) with which the
cow is associated. The Sumerogram for the cow, á b and kar, is analysed separately; á b is
to be read as ar≈u in the sense of the cow (littu), which can also mean a half shape (littu
maßlu); in the following part, k ar is analysed as having two separate meanings, ‘damage’
and ‘area’, according to different pronunciations.131 These ideas are related to each other
through philological argument associated with the ‘half crown’ of the moon. 132 The
association between the moon god and bovine animals thus includes visual aspects, in which
the ‘horns’ play an important role.
To sum up, the use of the lion and bull in association with deities reveals a wide
range of symbolism, in which the animals’ particular nature, habits, and appearance are
endowed with special significance, and these ideas are projected onto the function of deities.
Warlike qualities explained in terms of the lion focus on the destructive aspects, which are
further related to the similar property perceived in the flood. When the wild bull is used in
the martial context, the animal’s goring act is emphasised in order to evoke the aggressive
ideas arising from this particular act, which is further associated with the trembling effect of
the thunderstorm. The lion’s association with the storm is explained by the animal’s habit of
roaring; the extraordinary sound produced by the animal creates great fear, and the
association is suggested by the Akkadian terminology used commonly for the animal’s roar
and for the noise of thunder. This common terminology also associates the bull’s bellow
with the noise of thunder. In agricultural contexts, the bull has a dual symbolism: animal
domestication and farming. The use of the domesticated ox/bull in ploughing creates further
associations with sexual fertility that are related to the prospect of fecundity. On the other
hand, the lion and the wild bull embody strong sexual desire which is typically controlled by
the divine function of the goddess Inanna/Ißtar. The association of the lion with the sun god,
and that of the bull with the moon god, are promoted by visual factors identified in each case:
in the luminous effect shared by the lion’s eyes and the sun, and in the horns shared by the
bull and the moon.

130 K170 + Rm 520, obv. 2: Livingstone 1986, 30-31: 2.


131 Cf. Livingstone 1986, 264, note 33.
132 Livingstone 1986, 45-47.
CHAPTER IV
Animals used in Architectural Contexts

Animal statues have been excavated from various sites. They cover an extensive time span
and occur in diverse contexts. The regular occurrence of particular kinds of animals, cast as
statues and figurines, is observed in relation to a particular locus in buildings. These statues
and figurines either take the form of real animals or have a supernatural body structure
consisting of the body parts of more than two animals. The nature of the buildings and the
function of loci within the architectural contexts in which the animal statues and figurines
occur may provide symbolic frameworks that attribute specific significance to the statues and
figurines. This significance must be seen as being closely associated with the specific
architectural context, as this context provides a metaphoric frame that selects and emphasises
the special property of the animals with this function. A study of these statues and figurines
thus needs to apply two kinds of evidence. First, the original architectural context is crucial
evidence that provides clues to their original function and meanings. Secondly, textual
references to the statues and figurines, which are attached to them as inscriptions or account
for similar statues which occur in the same context, explain their symbolic role. This textual
evidence is invaluable for illuminating the functional significance derived from the specific
architectural context.
In this chapter, the statues and figurines examined are restricted to those of real
animals occurring at a particular locus: the doorways of public buildings. Three kinds of
animals are known to have been used in this context in Mesopotamia: the lion, the bull, and
the dog. The statues of the lion and bull used for this purpose in the first millennium B.C.
are extraordinarily large and are often called ‘colossal statues’ or ‘colossi’. They were placed
at the entrances to public buildings — i.e., palaces and temples — where their presence was
obvious. The dog figurines placed at the entrance were much smaller and were buried under
the floor, so their presence was not revealed. Statues which are intended to be ‘seen’ by the
public use their visibility as an important way of conveying messages and fulfilling their
function. Those which are not intended to be seen and are ‘concealed’ from the sight of the
public work differently. The statues and figurines that occur in this architectural context may
thus be divided into two categories: those which are ‘exposed and visible’ and those which
are ‘concealed and invisible’, according to where they were originally placed in the buildings.
112 Animals in architectural contexts

IV.1. Visible Animal Statues at Doorways

IV.1.1. The lion statues

The earliest textual evidence goes back to the Early Dynastic period in Lagaß. Enanatum I
recorded that he had made lions/dogs (uur) of Halub-wood after he had finished building and
roofing the Éninnu Temple for the god Ningirsu, and these animals are said to have
functioned as the ‘door keeper’:1

He (Enanatum I) has let the lions/dogs of Halub-wood sit there as the door keeper.
(uu r . ≈ a . l u . ú b ì . d u 8 . ß è m u . n a . d ú r . d u r ú n . n a [.. a ])2

On Gudea Cylinder A, all three animals are among those decorating the entrance to the
Éninnu Temple:

The locks of the temple doors had ‘bisons(?)’ (BAD) on them, its door-pivots had
‘lions’ (uu r . m a ≈ ), from their bolts ‘womb snakes’ (m m u ß . ß à . t ù r ) and ‘furious
snakes’ (m m u ß . ≈ u ß ) hissed at a ‘wild bull’ (aa m ), ‘young lions and panthers’ (uu g
n e m u rx <PIRIG.TUR>-TUR.TUR) lay on the door lintels, and the shining nails of
roof-beams were like a ‘dragon’ (uußum) placing its claw on someone’s chest.3

It is not entirely clear whether these animals are actually statues attached to various parts of
the doorway, or whether they are mentioned here as metaphoric expressions in order to
emphasise particular features of each part of the doorway. If we take this description
literally, the entrance to the Éninnu Temple was extensively decorated with animal images.
One of the earliest pieces of archaeological evidence for the occurrence of the lion statue at
doorways is found in the text inscribed on a lion head dedicated by Gudea to the goddess
Gatumdug (Fig. 30).4 The text reads: “for Gatumdug, mother of Lagaß, his lady, Gudea,
ruler of Lagaß, built her House of the Shining City. It (i.e., this lion) is (part) of the door”
(GIÍ.ii g . k a [m
m ]).5 This makes it clear that the lion statue was originally located at or attached
to the doorway of the temple. Another of Gudea’s lion statues, found at Uruk, bears an
inscription to Ningirsu,6 the last line of which also claims that “it is of the door”
1 I am most grateful to Professor Selz for drawing my attention to this early evidence. He has also made me
aware of a divine name, Iga-alim(a) “The Door (is) a bison”, which probably indicates that the door is decorated
with bisons. The original concept of placing animals at doorways may thus go back to an even earlier period.
2 Selz 1995, 225, 25: En. I 2 i 7-iii 6.
3 Gudea Cyl. A, XXVI 22-29: Edzard 1997, 86.
4 Parrot 1948, fig. 42 l, m; Braun-Holzinger 1991, 325, T7.
5 Edzard 1997, 116, 11a, lines 1-9.
6 Edzard 1997, 147, 52, i 1-ii 7.
Visible animal statues: the lion 113
(GIÍ.{x}ii g . k a m ). Gudea’s texts clearly identify the locus of the buildings where these
statues were originally placed.
Numerous animal statues have been discovered by archaeological expeditions.
Among them, the earliest examples come from Eridu (fig. 31), where a complete lion statue
in basalt was found outside the mound of Abu Shahrein, about 15 meters from the north-
eastern side of the city wall, in line with the south-east side of the ziggurat.7 Fragments of a
second lion were also found near the eastern corner of the mound. The first lion statue sits
upright on its haunches, with the eyes and the mouth carved, the mane represented by large
curls, and the carved tail on the right side of the body ending in a curly tip. The statue dates
back to the late fourth millennium B.C.8 Four large lion heads were found at al-‘Ubaid, in
the sanctuary of the temple of Nin≈ursag.9 Each of the heads consists of an outer mask of
copper, covering a bitumen core (fig. 32). The eyes, teeth, and tongue were made of stone
and shell to be attached to the bitumen. Two of the heads were found with the foreparts of
the bodies still attached — the chest, neck, shoulders, and forelegs of the animal — but no
more of the body seems ever to have existed. These heads were buried in a line along the
temple façade,10 so the excavators thought that the lion heads with the foreparts of their
bodies were flanking a doorway at the entrance to the temple,11 like Greek protomae which
show the animal issuing from the face of a wall. At Susa, two lion statues made of stone
were found at the Inßußinak Temple,12 dated to the second half of the third millennium B.C.
A fragment of a stone lion comes from Aßßur; the date cannot be specified but is likely to be
sometime between the Akkadian and the Old Assyrian periods.13 From Lagaß, three lion
heads bearing the inscriptions of Ur-Nanße were found,14 one of which refers to the god
Ningirsu, to whom the statue is dedicated.15 Although the exact loci of these earlier statues
are not known, it is generally assumed, by applying the later tradition and function of statues
of this type, that they functioned as ‘gate figures’.
Dating from the second millennium B.C., a pair of life-size terracotta lions have been
excavated at the entrance to the temple at Tell Harmal, which itself dates from the Old
Babylonian period.16 Other examples in terracotta include those from Mari,17 Aßßur,18

7 Safar 1981, 242-245.


8 RlA under Löwe B, §2.c.
9 Hall, et al., 1927, plates. X-XI.
10 Hall, et al., 1927, pl. II, P-U.
11 See, for a sketch reconstruction of the temple façade by Woolley: Hall, et al. 1927, pl. XXXVIII.
12 Amiet 1980, fig. 167.
13 WVDOG 23, Abb. 146, 147.
14 Parrot 1948, figs. 14g, 21b; RA 4, 105, fig. 10b; Braun-Holzinger 1991, 324, T1-3.
15 Braun-Holzinger 1991, 324-325, T4-5.
16 Sumer 2, 22-30.
17 MAM II 3, fig. 27.
18 Klengel-Brandt 1978, 102.
114 Animals in architectural contexts

Susa,19 and Nuzi.20 Examples made of stone were found at Alala≈,21 Hazor,22 Alaca
Höyük,23 and Hattußa.24 Bronze lions with inlaid eyes have been excavated at Mari, in the
Dagan Temple.25 Textual evidence provides a reference to a pair of lions installed at the
temple in the city of Malgium. The text is inscribed on two bricks, recounting Takil-ilissu’s
construction of the temples for the gods Anu, Ninßubur, and Ulma߬tum. The lions appear in
the description of the Ulma߬tum Temple, which reads: “(I) installed [D ]ån-B¬tim and
Raßub-B¬tim, the lions, her envoys, that go at her side at the place of the maqq¬tum offerings
of the king ...” ([d d]a-an-É ù d ra-ßu-ub-É ne-ßi na-aß-pa-ri-ßa a-li-ku-<ut> i-di-<<x>>-ßa a-
ßar ma-aq-qí-it ßar-ri).26 These two lion statues thus have names: the first, Dån-B¬tim,
means the “Strong one of the temple (lit. ‘house’)” and the second, Raßub-B¬tim, means the
“Terrifying one of the temple”. These names can be understood as defining their essential
attributed nature, and are perhaps the oldest evidence of the qualities attributed to the lion
statues in public buildings, though the locus is not made explicit. The lions are here
explained as “her envoys” (naßpar¬ßa), whom the goddess can dispatch, if necessary, perhaps
to threaten and conquer her enemies, as the names of the lions imply. Another textual
reference to a pair of lions installed at the temple is found in a year name of the king of Larsa.
The name of the third regnal year of S∑mû-El reads: “He brought two bronze lions to the
[great out]er gate of Inanna” (uu r . m a ≈ u r u d u m i n . a . b i k á . [m
m a ≈ b a r ].rr a d I n a n n a . ß è
i.ni.in.ku4.r[ii])27 This name must have been taken from the historical fact that the two lion
statues of bronze had been fashioned and installed at the Inanna Temple in Larsa during the
previous year.
During the second half of the second millennium and the first millennium B.C. in
Assyria, lion statues were installed not only in temples but also in palaces. In a Middle
Assyrian ritual text, lion statues described with the divine determinative are referred to as
“the lions of the palace” (d UR.MAÙ.MEÍ ßa É.[GAL-li]).28 Four lions made of basalt (4
UR.MAÙ.MEÍ ßá NA4 .AD.BAR) are mentioned in the text inscribed on the ‘Broken
Obelisk’ of Aßßur-b∆l-kala,29 on which lion statues are listed among the statues to be
stationed at the doors of the palace. Aßßur-r∆ßa-ißi I refers to lion statues standing in the
main forecourt of the Ißtar temple at Nineveh. The text reads: “the towers of the great gate at

19 PKG 18, fig. 285.


20 Starr 1939, 108-111.
21 PKG 18, fig. 408a.
22 PKG 18, fig. 408b.
23 PKG 18, fig. 337.
24 PKG 18, fig. 336.
25 PKG 18, fig. 168.
26 Frayne 1990, 673, lines 42-45.
27 RA 15, 53 I 48.
28 MVAG 41/3, 16, col. iii 31.
29 Grayson 1991, 105: Aßßur-b∆l-kala A.0.89.7, col. v 17.
Visible animal statues: the lion 115
the front of the (monumental) lions in the main forecourt of the temple of the goddess Ißtar of
Nineveh” (na-mé-ru ßá KÁ GAL-te ßá SAG UR.MAÙ ßá ki-[KISAL].MAÙ ßá É [di]ß8 -tár
ßá URU.NI[NA]).30 A letter from the treasurer, Tab-ßar-Aßßur, to the king Sargon II refers
to bronze lion statues to be fashioned as column-bases in the b¬t-≈ilåni of his palace at
Khorsabad as follows: “the small lions of the ≈ilånu(s) will be cast together with the big
lions in the spring” (UR.MAÙ.MEÍ QÀL.MEÍ-te ßa É.≈i-il-la-ni ma-a TA UR.MAÙ.MEÍ
KALAG.MEÍ ina IGI MU.AN.N[A] ú-ßá-ra-qu-ma).31 Sennacherib also refers to bronze
lion statues installed in the b¬t-≈ilåni of his palace at Nineveh: “I built within them (the gates
of b¬t-≈ilåni) eight walking lions (of bronze) facing each other” (qiribßin 8 n∆ß∆ pitån birki
ß∑tat∑ti)32 and “I fashioned twelve roaring lions” (12 UR.MAÙ.MEÍ né-’i-ru-ti).33 In
addition to other statues such as Anzu and la≈mu, Esarhaddon records lion statues
(UR.MAÙ.MEÍ) made of silver and bronze to stand at the doorways of the Ißtar Temple in
Arba’il.34
In Nimrud, two colossal lion statues have been excavated, and dated to the time of
Aßßurnaπirpal II (fig. 33).35 The statues once stood at the entrance to the temple of the
goddess Íarrat-nip≈i, and one of the statues now in the British Museum is engraved with
two different inscriptions.36 The text inscribed on the front of the statue records the
dedication to the goddess Íarrat-nip≈i, which is followed by general statements that include
the king’s conquests, the construction of the city Kal≈u (Nimrud), and the construction of the
temples.37 Similarly colossal lion statues were found also at many other sites,38 including
Babylon,39 Arslan-Tash,40 and Tell Ahmar (Til-Barsip).41 The lion statue from Tell Ahmar
was excavated at the site of an ancient city gate to the north-east of the tell (fig. 34). This
statue is particularly important, since it bears an inscription, — carved by the Assyrian
turtånu Íamßi-ilu, who lived at the time of Shalmaneser IV — that names the two lions
placed at the city gate. The text reads:

30 Grayson 1987, 313: Aßßur-r∆ßa-ißi I A.0.86.2, lines 3-4.


31 Parpola 1987, SAA 1, no. 66: 13-17.
32 OIP 2, 97: 82.
33 OIP 2, 122: 27 and 109 vii 10.
34 Ash. 33, 10.
35 PKG 18, fig. 174.
36 Grayson 1991, 283-286: Aßßurnaπirpal II A.0.101.28, 295-297: Aßßurnaπirpal II A.0.101.32.
37 Grayson 1991, 284, col. i 1-6.
38 Cf. Madhloom 1969, 100-101.
39 PKG 18, fig. 177.
40 Thureau-Dangin, et al., 1931, plates III, VI.
41 Thureau-Dangin & Dunand 1936, pl. XXXVII; Bunnens 1991, 170, fig. 6.
116 Animals in architectural contexts

The name of the first lion who stands before the gate is: Furious storm-demon,
whose onslaught is irresistible, feller of the insubordinate, who helps to achieve
one’s desires. The name of the second lion who stands before the gate is: Repulser
of battle, overwhelmer of the enemy land, who drives out evil, who brings in good.
(MU I-en UR.MAÙ ßá [ma≈-rat KÁ iz-za-zu UD]-mu ez-zu ti-bu<-ßú> la ma≈-ru
mu-ßam-qit [l]a ma-gi-ri mu-ßam-πu mal lìb-bi MU-ßu MU II-e [UR.MAÙ] ßa ma≈-
rat KÁ iz-za-zu [mu ] -na-kip a-nun-tú sa-pìn KUR nu-kúr-tú mu-ße-π [ u-ú ]
ÙUL.MEÍ mu-ße-rib [S]IG5.[ME]Í MU-ßú)42

These names reveal the essential nature of the lion statues which once flanked the city gate of
Til-Barsip. In both names, the aggressive characteristics of the statues are emphasised by
expressions such as ‘fierce’, ‘irresistible onslaught’, ‘feller of the insubordinate’, ‘repulser’,
and ‘overwhelmer of the enemy land’. The animals’ fierce nature effectively reflects their
function to repel enemies, whom they surpass in strength. Although these statues are fierce
and threatening to enemies residing outside the territory, these characteristics are not directed
at the people who belong to that society. Furthermore, the statues have a beneficial function
to “help to achieve one’s desires” and to “bring in good”. This function can be interpreted as
a reflection of the desires and wishes of the people who live within the city gate. The statues
were thus believed to allow beneficial things to enter the internal space of the city or the
building, but to repel things that could be harmful. In other words, the statues stand at the
junction between the external and the internal in order to act as a ‘filter’, to select what is
appropriate to enter the internal sphere; those things which are perceived to be evil or hostile
are stopped at this point and conquered by the statues.

42 Engel 1987, 58, lines 21-24; the transliteration cited above is a conflation of two versions carved on the
lions A and B.
Visible animal statues: the bull 117
IV.1.2. The bull statues

The bull statues discussed in this chapter are not ‘winged human-headed bulls’, which are
sometimes called ‘bull colossi’, but statues representing the real bovine animals. Bull statues
of copper were found at al-‘Ubaid (fig. 35), together with the lion heads from the sanctuary
of the temple of Nin≈ursag discussed above.43 These bulls stand with all four legs on the
ground, and their heads turn sharply over their shoulder. Four such bull statues were found
piled in front of the wall that once formed the façade of the temple: they are thought to have
been placed on the wall near the entrance.44 Further bull figures were found in copper reliefs
which also decorated the temple façade as a frieze, where the animals are represented as
reclining but in the process of rising (fig. 36).45 In the text of Gudea Cylinder A, a ‘wild
bull’ (aa m ) is mentioned in the description of the entrance to the Éninnu Temple, where
‘womb snakes’ and ‘furious snakes’ are hissing from the bolts of doors at the ‘wild bull’.46
In Assyria, bull statues described with the divine determinative (d AM.MEÍ) appear
in the list of divine figures recorded in a Middle Assyrian ritual text, together with the lion
figures (d UR.MAÙ.MEÍ).47 Tiglath-pileser III installed two bull statues made of basalt at
the entrance of the temple in Arslan Tash, and one of the statues bears an inscription in
which the names of the statues are recorded. The text reads:

The name of the first bull who stands in the west is: Furious storm-demon, [...],
feller of the wicked, (of the) enemy of the king. The name of the second bull who
stands in the east is: Who gains victory for the king, [...], who brings in good.
(M[U] GUD.A[M] ma≈-re-e ßá ina [IM.MAR.T]U [GUB-zu] UD-mu [ez-z]u x[ ]
a+a-bi mu-ßam-qit lem-nu-ti MAN MU-ßú MU II-e GUD.AM ßá ina [I]M.KUR
G U B -zu ka-ßid er-net-ti MAN mu [ ] x x[ ]x x mu x x[ ] mu-ße-rib
MÍ.SIG5 .MEÍ MU-ßú)48

The names of these two bull statues are very similar to those of the lion statues from the time
of Shalmaneser IV found at Til-Barsip (see IV.1.1). The name of the first bull emphasises
its aggressive characteristics, which are directed against the king’s enemies. The name of the
second bull, on the other hand, stresses its beneficial role, to bring victory for the king and to
let the good things in. The function of these bull statues can be said to be almost identical
with that of the lion statues occurring in the same architectural context.

43 Hall, et al., 1927, plates XXXVII-XXVIII.


44 Hall, et al., 1927, pl. XXXVII.
45 Hall, et al., 1927, plates XXIX-XXX.
46 Gudea Cyl. A, XXVI 25; Edzard 1997, 86.
47 BiOr 18, 199, I 53-54.
48 Thureau-Dangin, et al., 1931, 61, fig. 20; Engel 1987, 75-76, lines 24-26.
118 Animals in architectural contexts

Although not much archaeological evidence has been found for the bull statues, there
are textual references to the statues placed at the doorways of public buildings from the late
Assyrian to the late Babylonian periods. Aßßurbanipal records: “I set up four fierce wild
bulls of silver to protect the path (on which) I enter (the sanctuary) as the king, in the gate of
Ezida which is in Borsippa” (4 r¬m¬ kaspi ekd∑ti naπir∑t kibis ßarr∑tija ... ina båb Ezida ßa
qirib Barsipki ulziz).49 The king also refers to other wild bulls made of silver, which he set
up in the Sin Temple, to “gore the evil doers, to trample my enemies” (ana itkup zåmâni dâiß
ajåb¬j[a]).50 Elsewhere, Aßßurbanipal records: “two wild bulls made of silver goring my
enemies” (2 r¬m¬ kaspi munakkipu gårîja).51 The first reference above explains the silver
statues as ‘fierce’ (ekd∑ti), and the other two references express the aggressive features of
the statues as ‘goring’ and ‘trampling’. These explain what is signified by the ‘fierceness’
attributed to the wild bull statues. The same king also refers to the wild bull statues at Susa
which he destroyed: “I tore out the furious wild bulls, which adorned the gates (of the
temple tower of Susa)” (unassi≈a r¬m∆ nadr∑ti simat båbåni).52 The Babylonian king
Nebuchadnezzar II records: “I had fashioned and set up at the doorway53 of its (Babylon’s)
gates fierce wild bulls of bronze and raging muß≈ußßu-dragons” (ina sipp¬ abullåtißu r¬m¬ erî
ekd∑tim u muß≈ußß∆ ß∆zuz∑tim abn¬ma ußzizma)54 and “I cast fierce wild bulls in bronze,
overlaid them with gold alloy(?), decorated them with precious stones and set them up at the
doorway of the gate of the sanctuary” (r¬m¬ ekd∑ti pitiq erî aptiqma tir [ßaßßi] ußalbiß abn∆
nisiqti uza’inma ina sipp¬ båb papå≈i ußziz).55 The bull statues are also mentioned in a text
recorded by Nabonidus: “(Nabonidus) set up in front of it (the Sin Temple: E≈ul≈ul) a fierce
wild bull like that of Esagila” (r∆mu ekdu k¬ma É.SAG.ÍL ußaπbit ma≈arßu).56 The reason
these statues have not been found in excavations may be that they were often made of
precious metals; it is likely that they were either removed by enemies when the city was
conquered, or that the metal was melted down and used for other purposes.

49 Thompson Esarh. pl. 14 ii 1 (Asb).


50 Streck Asb. 172 rev. 55.
51 Thompson Esarh. pl. 15 iii 5 (Asb).
52 Streck Asb. 54 vi 60.
53 The Akkadian term sippu refers generally to the doorframe and even the entire doorway. Cf. CAD, ‘S’,
under sippu.
54 VAB 4 106 i 59, 90 i 45, 86 ii 8, 132 vi 16.
55 VAB 4 158 vi 28.
56 BHT pl. 6 ii 15.
Concealed animal statues: the dog 119
IV.2. Concealed Animal Statues at Doorways:
The dog figurines

During the excavation of the Assyrian palace at Nineveh, dog figurines were found
concealed below a relief slab at the entrance to the palace.57 Five terracotta dog figurines
(fig. 37) had been placed in a niche at the base of a relief slab bearing the representation of a
pair of magical figures called ugallu (‘lion-demon’),58 whose function was to avert evil.59
The doorway in which the figurines were found once formed the main entrance, called the
‘Western Portal’, to Room S of the b¬t ≈ilåni in the North Palace of Aßßurbanipal. The
figurines are individually inscribed with their names and each is painted either white, 60
black,61 red,62 greenish blue,63 or white with reddish-brown spots.64 The name of the white
dog is “Do not consider, make your bite” (e tamtallik epuß påka), the black dog is “Strong is
his bark” (dån rigißßu), the red dog is “Who overcomes the enemy” (kåßid ajjåb¬), the
greenish-blue dog is “Who bites his foe” (munaßßiku gårîßu), and the white dog with
reddish-brown spots is “Who makes evil go out” (muß∆πu lemn∑ti).65 These names
emphasise the aggressive properties attributed to the dogs, which are expressed in terms of
the animal’s ‘bite’ and loud ‘bark’, that would ‘overcome’ enemies and repel ‘evil’.
In a ritual text called “To block the entry of the enemy in someone’s house” (ß∆p
lemutti ina b¬t am∆li paråsu), the instruction is given to make ten statues of clay dogs, two of
each to be painted the same colour: white, black, red, blue, and multicolour. The name of the
first white dog is “Do not reconsider, speak up” (e tam-ta-lik e-pu-uß KA-ka), and the
second white one is “Do not reconsider, bite you” (e tam-ta-lik ú-ßuk at-ta); the first black
dog is “Destroy his life” (a-ru-u≈ ZI-ßu), and the second is “Strong is his bark” (da-an ri-giß-
ßu); the first red dog is “Who chases away the Asakku” (µa-ri-id Á.SÀG), and the second is
“Who overcomes the enemy” (ka-ßid a-a-bi); the first blue dog is “Who repels the chest of
evil” (sa-kip GABA lem-ni), and the second is “Who bites his foe” (mu-na-ßi-ku ga-ri-ßu);
the first multicoloured dog is “Who lets the good ones enter” (mu-ße-ri-bu SIG5 .MEÍ), and
the second is “Who makes evil go out” (mu-ße-πu-u ÙUL.MEÍ).66 When the statues were
made and their names inscribed on the “shoulder blade”, they were taken to the river to be

57 Barnett 1976, plates I, XLV.


58 Iraq 45, 90-91; Wiggermann 1992, 169-172.
59 The creature is described in an inscription: “Averter of the chest of the evil one and the enemy”:
Rittig 1977, 156, 166.
60 BM 30003.
61 BM 30005.
62 BM 30002.
63 BM 30004.
64 BM 30001.
65 Barnett 1976, 36.
66 Wiggermann 1992, 14-15, I 195-205; OLZ 25, col. 221ff.; Syria 33, 22.
120 Animals in architectural contexts

sprinkled with holy water. This was followed by the sacrifice of sheep to the gods.
Afterwards, the statues were taken to the house, where there was another offering and
sacrifice to the gods. Finally the statues were buried “in the outer gate” (ina K Á
TILLAx /AÍ.A.AN).67 The names mentioned above may be divided into three categories:
first, the emphasis is on the aggressive nature of the animal, such as loud barking, biting, and
destruction, which can be directed at anyone indiscriminately; secondly, the object that the
dogs are to chase away is specified, such as Asakku, the enemy, and evil ones; lastly, the
dog not only chases out harmful spirits but also brings in beneficial ones.
The practice of concealing dog figurines under doorways was known not only in
Assyria but also in Babylonia. The king Nebuchadnezzar II records that he set up in the
gates of Esabad, the temple of Gula, “two golden dogs, two dogs of silver, two dogs of
copper, whose build was sturdy, whose limbs were massive”. Although the goddess Gula is
closely associated with the animal, the role of these metal dog figurines is likely to have been
similar to those discussed above, rather than emphasising the animal’s divine association or
symbolising the deity, because the original locus of the figurines is specified as having been
“set up in the magnificent gates” (ina båbåtißu π¬råti ußarßid)68 of the temple. The dog
figurines occurring in this particular context should be regarded as having an apotropaic
function.

67 Wiggermann 1992, 53: 25. 25.


68 VAB IV, 164 B: no. 19, kol. VI 20-24.
The function of animal statues 121
IV.3. The Function of Animal Statues at Doorways

The three kinds of animal statues — the lion, the bull, and the dog — whether visible or
concealed in the doorways of public buildings, reveal their nature and function in their
individual names. Their basic nature can be described by combining their two separate
functions. On the one hand, they present their fierce aspects in terms of their aggressive
nature and acts that are characteristic of each animal in order to ward off evil. On the other
hand, they are believed to invite good things to enter the internal domain. The function of the
statues, therefore, can be summarised as ‘apotropaic’, ‘protective’, and ‘beneficial’. The way
in which this function works depends on how these statues were placed and presented. The
lion and bull statues were placed at the entrance and they were visible. Their size, especially
in the first millennium B.C., must have inspired awe and fear in the minds of those who saw
them. The function of these colossal statues was to convey apotropaic messages directly to
the onlookers through the medium of their appearance. The dog figurines, however, were
intended to function differently, because they were hidden somewhere in the doorway; they
were supposed to work on the supernatural level against evil entities either visible or
invisible. The reason for choosing ‘dogs’ to fulfil this function may be related to the
animal’s acute awareness of intruders who cannot be seen by ordinary people. Dogs are kept
as guards or ‘watchdogs’ all over the world. It was perhaps hoped that the figurines would
act like real dogs. In Nigeria, for example, dogs are associated with supernatural entities,
since they often bark at the air in which humans cannot see anything. It is therefore believed
that dogs can see the spirits, at whom they bark.69
The interpretation of animal statues and figurines must be handled carefully with
regard to the ‘contexts’ in which they occur. The dog figurines discussed here have an
apotropaic function which can be articulated by two factors: first, the locus within the
building structure in which they were originally placed and, secondly, the appearance of the
figures, such as the trace of colour originally painted or the texts inscribed on them, which
might provide more information. There are, however, dog figurines belonging to a totally
different category. They occur in the context of ex votos, having been excavated at the
sanctuary of the healing deity with whom the animal is associated. The function and
symbolic meanings of these dog figurines differ greatly, depending on their context. The
overall function of the dog figurines cannot be discussed without specifying the context in
which they occur.
The ‘context’ can be created on various levels in which symbols occur. In examining
the symbolic role played by animals, the application of a single level of context may not be
sufficient to determine the meaning intended. For the interpretation of animal figures
69 Olowo Ojoade 1990, 219.
122 Animals in architectural contexts

represented in art, at least two different levels of ‘context’ must be taken into consideration.
The first is the archaeological context: the data concerning the original loci of statues and
figurines provide crucial information about their nature and function. The second is the
relative context, in which the presence of other objects provides a symbolic framework
within which the animal’s role can be interpreted; in other words, it creates another level of
context. For example, the images of the lion and the bull on glazed bricks are found at the
doorways of public buildings in Babylon (figs. 39, 40)70 and Khorsabad (fig. 41).71 At first
glance, they appear to be very similar from a stylistic point of view: the lion, with its mouth
open, is striding forward with all four paws on the ground, and the bull is walking steadily
forward. They both occur in a similar architectural context: those in Babylon at the
Processional Way and on the Ißtar Gate, and those in Khorsabad on the temple façade
flanking the entrance. The only difference is the objects which are represented together with
the figures of the lion and the bull respectively.
In Babylon, the two animals are joined by the composite animal muß≈ußßu, which
occurs repeatedly, together with the figure of a bull, upon the famous Ißtar Gate
(figs. 38, 39). The figure of a lion alone appears repeatedly on the wall along the
Processional Way (fig. 40), which functions as a ‘prolonged doorway’, running along the
eastern side of the Southern Palace and leading to a special festival house, the b¬t ak¬tu,
through the massive Ißtar Gate. The muß≈ußßu has a dual function: apotropaic and divine-
associated. The former is known from the late third millennium onwards,72 and the latter, by
the first millennium, is known in its association with the gods Marduk and Nabû. The bull
and the lion also had this dual aspect; their apotropaic function has been discussed above,
and their divine associations are that the bull is attributed to the storm god Adad and the lion
to Ißtar and other goddesses. Thus both functions can be applied to all three animals. It is
difficult to determine which function should be applied here, as both seem plausible. The
Processional Way was used for the Ak¬tu festival, in which the images of the gods were
carried along the broad road, between high walls adorned with the figures of some 120 lions.
This pathway was named “May the obdurate foe not stay in good health” (aya ibur ßåpûm
s∑qu r[apßu]),73 which was a curse laid on enemies. The presence of the lions on glazed
bricks reinforces, in visual form, the apotropaic message indicated by the name of the
Processional Way. The Ißtar Gate was named “the goddess Ißtar who repulses its onslaught”
(abullu d Ißtar såkipat t∆b¬ßu abul d iß[tar]).74 It should be noted, however, that the animal
figures represented on the Ißtar Gate are not lions, with which the goddess is associated, but

70 Oates 1986, 152-155.


71 Loud 1936, fig. 104.
72 Cf. RlA 8, 460, under muß≈ußßu §4.
73 VAB 4, 88, nos. 8 ii 5, 114 ii 6; Unger Babylon, 109.
74 RlA 1, 341, under Babylon §17: var. t∆b¬ßa.
The function of animal statues 123
bulls and the muß≈ußßu, which in the divine context are normally associated with Adad and
Marduk/Nabû respectively. This raises the question of why the particular animal that was
associated with the goddess, and thus would be appropriate for the name of the gate, was not
selected to decorate the gate itself, but rather was represented elsewhere on the Processional
Way. The choice of these animals suggests that the bulls and muß≈ußßu were represented on
the gate not because of their divine associations but so that they could fulfil their apotropaic
function. In fact, the reason for placing muß≈ußßu at doorways is confirmed by Neriglissar
(560-556 B.C.), one of the successors of Nebuchadnezzar II, in his inscription:

I cast seven bronze savage muß≈ußßu who spatter enemy and foe with deadly
venom.75

In Khorsabad, on the other hand, the figures of the lion and the bull appear with the
‘bird of prey’, a ‘tree with fruits’, and the ‘plough’, which are all lined up, the animals facing
in the same direction (fig. 41). Of these five elements, represented on glazed bricks, the last
two create a totally different relative context from that discussed above, since the presence of
the ‘tree’ and the ‘plough’ prevent us from assuming the same apotropaic function as in
Babylon, which lacks these two elements. It is not known that the ‘tree’ and the ‘plough’
had an apotropaic function, so their presence requires these five symbols to be ‘read’ in a
different framework. What these symbols stand for has been a mystery for a long time.
Loud considered that the lion here represents “the power of the Assyrian Empire”, the bird of
prey “the might of Sargon” as “sovereign of the air”, and the tree “the fertility of the land”.76
His interpretation, however, is not based on any particular evidence and is pure speculation.
Unger regarded them as symbolising different gods,77 Gadd considered them as representing
the king’s name,78 and Reade suggested that they represented puns and esoteric
interpretation.79 Finally, in 1996 Finkel and Reade published an article in which they
concluded that these designs can be understood as rebus writings or an elaborate form of
cryptography that employed a number of devices: direct and indirect pictogram; direct and
indirect pun.80 According to them, the motifs on the glazed bricks are to be interpreted as
representing “Sargon (the king depicted on the left side), great (the bird) king (the lion), king
(the bull) of the land (the fig tree) of Aßßur (the plough and the human pointing at the ground
with the tip of a spear, the latter to be read as the determinative KI)”.

75 VAB 4 210, i 26-27; translation after Lambert 1985a, 87.


76 Loud 1936, 94-95.
77 RlA 2, under Dûr-ßarrukîn, 249-252.
78 Gadd 1948, 93-95.
79 Reade 1979, 45.
80 Finkel & Reade 1996, 247-250.
124 Animals in architectural contexts

A similar representation is also found on a monument executed at the time of


Sargon’s successor, Esarhaddon (fig. 42). On the top of a rectangular block of black
limestone bearing an inscription about the king restoring Babylon and the Marduk Temple,
eight symbols are depicted in two rows; in the upper register from the left: an altar, the king,
the sacred tree, and a bull; in the lower register: the mountain, a plough, a palm tree, and a
rectangle with circles at its corners. From the time of the same king, other similar motifs are
represented at the end of terracotta prisms (fig. 43). These prisms are inscribed with texts
also relating to the restoration of Babylon and the Marduk Temple. The symbols are
represented in a circle arranged in the same order as on the monument, except that the bull is
replaced by the lion in the prisms. Esarhaddon recorded in his inscription that he made
“lumå߬-symbols, the equivalent of writing my name”81 on the terracotta prisms. It is,
therefore, to be assumed that these symbols stand for the king’s name and titles, applying a
similar device invented at the time of Sargon, in which animals and other objects function as
‘Assyrian hieroglyphs’.
To sum up, animal statues and figurines occurring in doorways have apotropaic and
protective functions: to repel enemies on the level of reality and to ward off evil spirits on
the supernatural level. In this respect, their ‘furious’ qualities are emphasised, and the
difference between the function of the lion and the bull statues is perhaps the way in which
the animals present their aggressive nature. In addition, they are believed to permit good
things to enter. Thus the statues act as a ‘filter’, by selecting what to reject and what to let in.
The locus where they were originally placed occupies the junction between the external and
the internal, and enemies and evil spirits were believed to reside in the external domain. The
consecration of buildings was important to the Mesopotamians as a confirmation of security
on both the realistic and the supernatural levels. Animal statues and figurines acted to
prevent any impure factors from invading the building and to guarantee the purity of the
internal domain. The two types of animal statue, visible and concealed, apparently had the
same function. The difference, however, is in the way that the apotropaic message was
directed against enemies. Those exposed at doorways were mainly intended to affect
humans who looked at them, whereas those concealed were directed at invisible entities.
Thus the protection of the building was assured on both the realistic and the supernatural
levels. In texts, these statues and figurines are never described as the ‘statue’ or ‘image’
(πalmu) of animals; they are simply referred to as the ‘lion’ (n∆ßu), the ‘bull’ (r¬mu), and the
‘dog’(kalbu). Bailey argued that the relationship between the ‘represented object’ and ‘its
representational subject’ is neither direct nor straightforward.82 The Mesopotamian animal
statues and figurines (the ‘represented object’) discussed here certainly present the natural

81 Episode 40: Borger 1956, 27-28.


82 Baily 1996, 291-295.
The function of animal statues 125
characteristics of each animal (the ‘representational subject’). However, the statues and
figurines are not regarded either as exactly the same as the real animals or merely as their
substitutes. They are perceived as having additional qualities that are humanised and
manipulated to convey the expectation that they will ‘let good things in’. These good things
are only ‘good’ for those who wish to keep the internal domain pure, and it may have been
easier to associate these beneficial effects with animal statues and figurines which were
personalised and controllable than with real animals. In determining the function of symbols,
not only the architectural context but also the relative context, created by those represented
together with the symbol in question, played an important role. The fact that the same
animal, occurring in a similar architectural context and represented with the same artistic
technique, can have a totally different symbolic role, defined by the other objects with which
it occurs, reveals the essential characteristics of symbols as well as the elaborate cognitive
systems operated by the Mesopotamians.
CHAPTER V
Composite Animals: A Case Study

Various types of composite animal occur in Mesopotamian texts and art. They are often
referred to as ‘monsters’ or ‘mythological animals’, in order to distinguish them from real
animals and to emphasise their supernatural features. Composite animals consist of the body
parts of two or more animals; although each body part is taken from a real animal, their
combination is the product of imagination. It might appear at first that composite animals
were invented at random by a fanciful mind and that no serious thought was put into them.
From the symbolic point of view, however, they can provide invaluable information about
how ideas were projected onto animals and operated through the medium of symbols. Each
animal body part conveys a particular notion derived from its original function, and can be
combined with other body parts of different species that convey different ideas. Thus animal
body parts can serve as conceptual ‘components’ to be integrated arbitrarily into one body to
form a unit of new ideas. This manipulation of concepts reflects the process of thought
operations in which different ideas combine to form a new concept. In this sense, composite
animals can be seen as ‘pure models’ applied to the complicated operation of concepts. Their
composite body structure provides multiple options, which evoke corresponding ideas and
concepts related to the context. In this chapter, we look at composite animals called
‘Imdugud/Anzû’ and the ‘Horned Lion Griffin’, both of which are associated with the god
Ninurta/Ningirsu, in order to examine how these creatures play their symbolic roles by
reflecting the ideas attributed to them.

V.1. Anzu

The creature called ‘Imdugud/Anzû’ (Anzu) is a composite animal consisting of the head of a
lion and the body of an eagle. The reading of the name of this creature has been much
debated.1 Landsberger proposed a n z u (-dd ) in Sumerian, and anzû in Akkadian.2 Lambert
accepted the Akkadian reading anzû, but suggested d i m . d u g u d in Sumerian.3 Later, Alster
suggested that the reading of AN.IM.DUGUDmußen was /zu/ in Sumerian and /anzu/ in
Akkadian, indicating that the creature must have had two different readings: /zu(-d)/ and

1 See Alster 1991, 1-5; Selz 1995, 24-25.


2 Landsberger 1961.
3 Or Ns 36, 130; AfO 27, 81.
Anzu: a divine servant 127
/anzu(-d)/ in Sumerian, and /zû/ and /anzû/ in Akkadian. 4 Etymologically, Anzu
(aa n . i m . d u g u d . m u ß e n ) means the ‘bird (m
m u ß e n ) of the fog (ii m . d u g u d = imbaru) in the
sky (aan)’, which suggests that Anzu embodies the ‘clouds’ in the sky by adopting the form
of a bird. Further, the ‘fog’ (iim.dugud) can be divided into the ‘wind’ (IM: ßåru ) or ‘clay’
(IM: µ¬µu )5 and ‘heavy’ (DUGUD: kabåtu). The combination of ‘aan’ (DINGIR) and IM, on
the other hand, means the storm god ‘Ißkur’ or ‘Adad’.6 Thus the way in which the name of
the creature is written suggests its close association with an atmospheric force manifested in
wind and clouds.

V.1.1. Anzu as a faithful divine servant


The earliest representation of Anzu occurs in seal impressions dating to the Uruk period.7
Two lion-headed eagles are depicted facing each other, their heads lowered towards a T-
shaped object placed between them on the ground. Their bodies are those of a bird of prey,
except for the heads, which have leonine characteristics. Another example shows the
creature flying over captured enemies whose arms are bound behind their backs (fig. 44).8 It
should be noted that the posture seen here — in profile with wings stretched up and head
lowered — is characteristic of this creature, and something is being spat out from its wide-
open mouth onto the ground.9 In the Early Dynastic period, Anzu is always depicted in
frontal view, spreading his wings to each side; his face is that of a feline, also shown in
frontal view. A famous example comes from Mari: the body and wings of a lion-headed
eagle are incised in flat lapis lazuli, and the head and the tail are fashioned in bitumen covered
with gold leaf.10 A piece in similar style, which once functioned as a pendant, was excavated
from Tell Asmar,11 and an example in lapis lazuli with a gold mask was excavated at Tell
Brak in the 1994 season (fig. 45).12
Anzu is often represented standing on the back of a pair of animals, such as lions,
ibexes, or stags. The combination of Anzu with a pair of lions is frequently found at Girsu
and has been regarded as the emblem of Ningirsu, the chief god of the city, who was the
local form of Ninurta (figs. 46, 47).13 These early representations of Anzu portray the
4 Alster 1991, 4-5.
5 Jacobsen (1976, 128) considers that it denotes ‘sling-stone’ or ‘ball of clay’, which could refer to a
hailstorm.
6 Cf. Landsberger 1961, 1ff.
7 Amiet 1980, fig. 1602, pl. 120.
8 Brandes 1979, Tafel 12.
9 Amiet 1980, pl. 13 bis. I.
10 Weiss 1985, cat. no. 55.
11 Iraq 36, 158 and pl. XXI, 5a.
12 R. Matthews 1994, 294, figs. 7-9.
13 PKG 18, figs. 88 (plaque of Dudu, from Girsu), 90 (‘Stele of Vulture’ from Girsu); also RlA 7, 95: Abb.
1 (silver vase of Enmetena from Girsu); for an interpretation of the animals, see Wiggermann 1992, 160-161.
128 Composite animals

creature as an independent agent in respect of its power and function rather than as a
complementary attribute of a divine figure. In the representation on the ‘Stele of Vulture’,14
however, Anzu appears at the top of a net, inside which enemies of Girsu are trapped, and an
anthropomorphic god who stands beside the net holds the lower body part of Anzu with his
left hand. The god is identified as Ningirsu, and Anzu perhaps here symbolically embodies
and manifests the power of Ningirsu, who overwhelmed enemies. Anzu appears again as an
emblem placed on top of a pole and standing beside a deity, whose horned crown is depicted
on a fragment that is believed to come from the same side of the stele as the enemies trapped
in the net.
During the Akkadian period, the depiction of Anzu in frontal view as a ‘lion-headed
eagle’ gradually disappears. Instead, the creature is more usually portrayed in profile,
standing on four feet: the front ‘paws’ are those of a lion and the hind ‘legs’ are those of a
bird. This iconographical transition is well observed on an incised shell plaque dated to the
late Early Dynastic period: Anzu is depicted in frontal view and in profile in the upper and
lower registers of the plaque respectively (fig. 48).15 Another major change in the pictorial
representation of Anzu is that the creature no longer occurs alone but is accompanied by an
anthropomorphic god and a female figure (figs. 20, 21).16 The role of Anzu in these scenes,
as representing the noise of thunder and forming the storm clouds, has been discussed in
Chapter III.2. Anzu functions as a part of the thunderstorm, and the male storm god perhaps
represents the driving force of the entire thunderstorm phenomenon, which is under his
control. Each element of the storm is explained: the noise of thunder and the formation of the
storm clouds by the roar of Anzu, and the rain by a female figure. Anzu can be seen as
manifesting a specific feature of the divine function attributed to the storm god. Anzu’s
leonine characteristics play an important role by indicating his ability to roar, and its
characteristics as a bird of prey convey ideas associated with the sky.
In textual sources from the early Ur III period, if not earlier, Anzu appears as a
faithful servant of the god. In the epic of Lugalbanda, Anzu is described as an enormous
bird of prey residing in the Sabum/Zubi mountains.17 It is Anzu who makes the clouds
dense in the early morning and who roars at the rising sun, which causes the ground to
reverberate in the stillness of the mountains. Anzu gave his support to Lugalbanda after
rejoicing because the king had done a favour for its young. At the command of Enlil, Anzu
blocked the entrance of the hostile mountain lands “as if he were a big door”18 and thus
fought on the side of the gods. Lugalbanda promised Anzu that he would set up his statue in

14 PKG 18, fig. 90.


15 Parrot 1948, 113, fig. 27-m; Amiet 1980, fig. 1278.
16 Buchanan 1966, fig. 335; Collon 1982, figs. 137, 192; Collon 1987, fig. 779; Frankfort 1939, pl. XXII-d.
17 Jacobsen 1987, 323ff.
18 Wilcke 1969, 100: 99ff.; Jacobsen 1987, 327: 101ff.
Anzu: a divine servant 129
the temples of the great gods in order to make Anzu famous throughout Sumer.19 In the text
of Gudea Cylinder A, Anzu is not included in a list of the defeated enemies of Ningirsu.
Anzu is closely associated with Ningirsu and is said to be the “emblem of his (Gudea’s) king
(Ningirsu)” (AN.IM.MI.MUÍEN ß u . n i r . l u g a l . l a . n a . k a m ).20 Note a minor difference:
in the Lugalbanda epic Anzu is described as a faithful servant of the god Enlil and has
independent control of certain natural phenomena, whereas in Gudea Cylinder A Anzu’s
importance as an independent agent is reduced and it functions as one of the divine
characteristics of Ningirsu.
In the dream of Gudea, Ningirsu is described as having the ‘wings’ of Anzu, his
head is that of a ‘god’, his lower limbs are those of a ‘flood-demon’, and he is flanked by
crouched lions.21 In the address given by Ningirsu, the god describes his temple as “Anzu
roaring in the round of heaven” (AN.IM.MI.MUÍEN a n . ß á r . r a s i g 4 . g i 4 . g i 4 ),22 and this
passage is followed by Ningirsu’s offer of ‘abundance’ (≈≈ é . g á l ). The text reads: “then I
will call up to heaven for a humid wind so that surely abundance will come to you from
above and the land will immediately gain in abundance”.23 In this phrase, what is meant by
‘abundance’ is hinted at by a ‘humid wind’ and ‘from above’, which is most likely to signify
the ‘rainfall’ that can bring ‘abundance’ — i.e., abundant vegetation — to the land. Anzu’s
roar, which the Éninnu Temple was called, is thus associated with the fertile aspect of rain.

19 Wilcke 1969, 108: 181-183 and 110: 198ff.


20 Gudea Cyl. A, XIII 22: Edzard 1997, 77.
21 Kramer 1969, 29.
22 Gudea Cyl. A, XI 3: Edzard 1997, 75.
23 Gudea Cyl. A, XI 7-9: Edzard 1997, 76.
130 Composite animals

V.1.2. Anzu as an enemy force


Copies of ‘Lugale’ and ‘Angim’ are known from the Old Babylonian period, but the original
compositions are believed to date to the Ur III period, sometime after Gudea.24 The theme of
‘Lugale’ is the victory of Ninurta over Asakku (áá . z á g ), and Anzu appears as one of the
eleven monsters slain by Ninurta.25 In ‘Angim’, too, Anzu is mentioned as one of the
defeated enemies of Ninurta; Anzu is described as being “brought forth from the ≈alub
ÙAR-ran tree” and “hung on the front guard” of Ninurta’s “shining chariot”.26 In both
texts, Anzu appears as the tenth enemy in the list of monsters slain by the divine hero. In
‘Ninurta and the Turtle’ (UET 6/1 2),27 Anzu relates an episode in which Ninurta smites
Anzu, and the Tablet-of-Destinies is returned to Enki. Anzu, as Enki’s servant, guides
Ninurta to the place of Enki in Apsu. Enki tells Ninurta that he (Ninurta) will place “his feet
on Anzu’s neck” since he caught the bird with a strong weapon.28 This serves the aetiology
of the representation of Ninurta described in the Babylonian God-Type Text, where
Ninurta’s appearance is explained as he who “holds the tether of the Anzu-bird in his left
hand”29 and “with his foot he steps on the Anzu-bird”.30
Why is Anzu suddenly regarded as an enemy of Ninurta? The shift must have taken
place during the periods when ‘Lugale’ and ‘Angim’ were composed. Jeremy Black has
suggested that during the reign of Gudea an official attempt was made to unify the cults of
local objects centred on Ningirsu by making other cultic objects into his ‘slain heroes’; Anzu
was incorporated into the later tradition as a wicked monster.31 Wiggermann considers that
Anzu became simply one among all the monstrous enemies of the anthropomorphic gods by
playing the role of a culprit, and the myth justifies Ninurta’s rise to become the major power
by establishing his victory over rebellious enemies who threatened rightful rule.32 Another
possible interpretation of this sudden shift may be sought in socio-political history. Anzu is
closely associated with the god Ningirsu, who is the chief god of the city state of Girsu, and
the sudden shift in Anzu’s role may suggest some political struggle between Girsu and rival
city states. Although there is no evidence that there was actual political conflict in Girsu,
there seems to have been rivalry between Girsu and Ur concerning trade.33 Two major
harbours gave access to the Gulf in this period. The harbour called g ú . a b . b a was situated

24 Cooper 1978, 10.


25 Jacobsen 1987, 243: 129-131.
26 Cooper 1978, 60: 39, 64: 61.
27 Alster 1972, 120-125.
28 UET 6/1 2: 16ff.
29 Köcher 1953, 66 i 59.
30 Köcher 1953, 66 ii 9.
31 J. Black 1988, 19-25.
32 Wiggermann 1992, 161-162.
33 I am grateful to Dr Tina Breckwoldt for this suggestion.
Anzu: an enemy force 131
40-50 km south of Girsu, close to Nina, and once belonged to the state of Lagaß; the other
harbour was owned by the city state of Ur. It is possible that the two cities were engaged in
a political struggle at some time during the Ur III period. The political superiority acquired
by Ur over Lagaß/Girsu by the time of the composition of ‘Lugale’ and ‘Angim’ may have
turned the emblem of Girsu into one of the defeated enemies of Ninurta. In my view, Anzu
originally had a dual function, and the literature emphasised different features of the creature
depending on the particular mythological or political context.
The pictorial representations of Anzu in the Ur III period can be divided into two
categories. First, Anzu is shown standing on a mountain with a god in human form: both
hold the same trident, which is placed between the two figures (fig. 49).34 This seal bears an
inscription with the name of Íulgi (2094-2047 B.C.), and the scene does not involve any
conflict between Anzu and the god, who share some kind of divine power symbolised by the
trident they both hold. The second category is exemplified in a combat scene, in which Anzu
has been seized by two figures (fig. 50).35 Anzu is represented as a wicked monster, since
he is caught by a bull-man who stands in front and by a nude hero who stands behind.36
The theme of the Akkadian myth of Anzu focuses on a battle between Anzu and
Ninurta. Anzu is born out of the wide earth in the Ùi≈i-mountains, his beak (ap-pa-ßú ) is
like a saw, and his screech (rig-mi-ßu ) causes mighty winds and great floods (lit. ‘masses of
water’). 37 Here Anzu’s possession of a beak appears to contradict the pictorial
representation in which it has a lion’s head. Anzu’s ‘screech’ (rigmu ), which elsewhere is
described as the roar of a lion,38 is associated with its roar of thunder, which causes the
storms of ‘mighty winds’ and ‘great floods’. Anzu served Enlil as his doorkeeper but
plotted to steal the Tablet-of-Destinies, the symbol of Enlilship. After Anzu carried the
Tablet-of-Destinies away to the mountains, the gods discussed who to send against Anzu:
first Adad was appointed, then Girra and Íara, and all of them refused to accept this
responsibility. Finally, Ninurta was chosen to challenge Anzu. Ninurta’s first battle was not
successful but, with advice from Ea, Ninurta confronted Anzu again and made Anzu’s wings
droop at the onslaught of the storm wind. Ninurta then shot arrows and cut off Anzu’s
wings, which were fastened to the front of Ekur.39
In the first half of the second millennium B.C., the representations of Anzu fall into
two groups. First, Anzu is presented as an attribute of a deity who either stands or sits on
Anzu. Secondly, there is a combat scene in which Anzu struggles either with human figures
or with an ibex. In the first representation, a god holding lightning bolts either sits or stands
34 Collon 1982, fig. 471.
35 Porada 1948, figs. 268-270.
36 Porada 1948, fig. 268.
37 Vogelzang 1988, 148.
38 bin.ßar.dadm∆, II 38: Vogelzang 1988, 52: 38.
39 STT 23/25 obv. 55-57; Vogelzang 1988, 123ff.
132 Composite animals

on Anzu (fig. 51).40 The representation of a deity holding lightning forks in the second
millennium B.C. can be identified with the weather god Adad. However, the possibility of
interpreting the figure as Ninurta remains, since the textual sources cited above associate the
representation of Anzu with Ninurta, who stands on the creature. Anzu’s function in this
period is perhaps to represent the storm aspect of the god. The female figure no longer
appears in the scene; her function concerning rainfall seems to have been incorporated into
that of the weather god. The noise of thunder is still embodied in the roaring Anzu, on
which the god stands.
The combat scenes involving Anzu can be further divided into two groups: first is a
scene in which Anzu attacks a man whose knee is placed on a knoll (fig. 52);41 secondly,
Anzu assaults an ibex which is seated upright on a knoll (fig. 53).42 In both cases, Anzu is
often replaced by a lion, which is also depicted rampant, attacking either a man or an ibex.
Porada interprets these combat scenes as “the assault of Nergal’s forces upon their victims”,
in which the force of Nergal is symbolised by Anzu.43 Her interpretation is based on the
theory developed by Schott, who identified Anzu with the constellation u 4 . k a . d u ≈ . a in
Assyro-Babylonian literature of a later era. At this later time u4.ka.du≈.a is associated with
the god of the netherworld, Nergal.44 Schott equated the constellation with Nergal, because
the constellation u 4 . k a . d u ≈ . a is explained as nimru (‘panther’), the star of Nergal in the
MUL.APIN text.45 It is, however, not known whether this constellation was associated with
Nergal in the earlier period. The MUL.APIN text has been dated to the end of the second
millennium or the beginning of the first millennium B.C., though information contained in
the text may go back to an earlier date. Since Anzu shares characteristics of the lion (not the
panther, which lacks the ability to produce the lion’s roar) on cylinder seals of the early
second millennium B.C., the pictorial representation of the constellation u4.ka.du≈.a as the
‘panther’ does not seem to be appropriate in this period. Accordingly, its association with
Nergal is uncertain.
An alternative interpretation of the scene may be suggested by historical events. The
Ur III Dynasty was subject to pressure from external forces: the Amorites and Elamites. It
is noteworthy that the ‘storm’ (uu 4 ) is repeatedly mentioned in the ‘Lamentation over the
Destruction of Ur’ as the force destroying and devastating the country.46 It may have been
used as a metaphor for external enemies who invaded the country, as well as possibly

40 Collon 1986, figs. 108 and 451.


41 Porada 1948, figs. 360, 362, 368, 369.
42 Porada 1948, figs. 355, 359, 361, 364; Collon 1987, fig. 958.
43 Porada 1948, vol.1-Text: 44.
44 Porada 1948, 44, note 4 (A. Schott, “Das Werden der babylonisch-assyrischen Positionsastronomie und
einige seiner Bedingungen”, Zeitschrift der Deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft, LXXXVIII, 1934,
320).
45 MUL.APIN I i 28.
46 Cf. Michalowski 1989, 36ff., lines 2, 70, 80ß, 108, 113, 163, 176-177, 214, 386a, 427, 483-487.
Anzu: an enemy force 133
referring to real natural disasters, such as floods and crop failure. This destructive
characteristic of storms, which can result in death, may be the reason that the constellation
u4.ka.du≈.a is associated with the god Nergal in later periods. Anzu perceived as the force
of the ‘Roaring Storm’ (uu 4. k a . d u ≈ . a ) symbolises a power which reduces the cosmos to a
chaotic state, so the ruler needs to suppress this chaotic force in order to maintain the cosmic
order. Thus, the combat motif of Anzu may symbolise a struggle between the hero and
chaotic forces, as a result of which the hero establishes cosmic order and seizes kingship.
In the second half of the second millennium B.C. at Nuzi, the storm god is
represented standing on Anzu,47 and Anzu is depicted spitting out a three-pronged object
which looks like lightning bolts.48 In the Middle Assyrian period, Anzu is depicted mainly
in contest scenes which fall into two groups: a combat between Anzu and a hero (fig. 54),49
and a scene in which Anzu attacks a bull (fig. 55).50 The former shows a hero who is about
to smite Anzu with a mace while he seizes the creature with his other hand. Anzu has long
upright ears, which are characteristic of representations in the Middle and Neo-Assyrian
periods. The representation of Anzu attacking a bull seems to be equivalent to the lion-bull
combat, since Anzu is often replaced by the figure of a lion.51

47 Collon 1987, fig. 269.


48 Collon 1987, fig. 791.
49 Porada 1948, figs. 596, 607.
50 Porada 1948, figs. 594, 598.
51 D. Matthews 1990, figs. 376-378, 385, 388.
134 Composite animals

V.1.3. Anzu represented as the p h a r m a k o s


In the first millennium B.C., the representation of Anzu is divided into two groups: first,
Anzu is chased by the god Ninurta and, secondly, Anzu is depicted with a deity standing on
its back. The stone relief of the chase scene was found at Nimrud, where this particular slab
once flanked the entrance to the Ninurta Temple (fig. 16): it bears a dedication to the god.52
The relief shows a winged god, holding three-pronged lightning bolts in both hands, running
after Anzu. Anzu’s head is turned back towards the deity, its mouth is wide open; its head
and forepaws are those of a lion, the tail, wings and hindlegs are those of an eagle, and its
body is covered with bird’s feathers. This theme appeared repeatedly on seals: though Anzu
is represented in the same style, the weapon held by the god is replaced by a bow and arrow,
and the god is shown standing on his associated animal, the Horned Lion Griffin, which
runs together with the god (figs. 17, 56, 57). The Nimrud relief seems to have been executed
earlier than the common adoption of the motif on seals, since the king Aßßurnaπirpal II
recorded in his annals that “the image of Ninurta did not previously exist”:53

At that time, I fashioned with my own intuition that image of the god Ninurta
which had not existed previously (as) a representation of his great divinity out of
the choicest stone of the mountain and red gold. I considered him as my great
divinity of Kal≈u.
([e]-nu-ma ALAM d MAÍ ßu-a-tú ßá ina pa-an la-a GÁL-ú ina ≈i-sa-at lìb-bi-ia
[d ]LAMMA DINGIR-ti-ßu GAL-ti ina du-muq NA4 KUR[-e ù] GUÍKIN ≈u-ße-e
[lu]-ú ab-ni a-na DINGIR-ti-ia GAL-te [ina]54 urukal-≈i lu-ú am-nu-ßú)55

Aßßurnaπirpal II’s ‘creation’ holds lightning bolts, which were replaced by a bow and arrow
in the representations on seals. The scene of Ninurta pursuing Anzu represents a ritual
footrace (lismu) enacted in the month of Kislimu to commemorate Ninurta’s victory over
Anzu (Chapter II.2). Jacobsen interpreted this battle-drama as a fertility drama in which
Ninurta, as the god of the thunderstorms of spring, represents the power of spring chasing
away winter, symbolised by Anzu.56 Jacobsen’s theory is based on an assumption that
Kislimu is in an early ‘spring’ month. Kislimu, however, is the ninth month, which falls
sometime between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.57 The theme of the cult-
drama, therefore, is not likely to have been related to the seasonal fertility celebration

52 Livingstone 1989, fig. 29; for the inscription, see Grayson ARI 2, 177: §§683-686.
53 Cf. Grayson ARI 2, 136-137 §576.
54 Although this is amended in AKA, the original text does not include ina.
55 AKA 210: 18-20 (Annals, col. II, 132-133).
56 Jacobsen 1975, 75.
57 Cf. MUL.APIN, I iii 7-9.
Anzu: the pharmakos 135
suggested. The role played by Anzu during this period can be interpreted as that of the
pharmakos towards whom violence was directed. This violence was justified because Anzu
commited a sin by stealing the Tablet-of-Destinies from Enlil, thereby threatening the cosmic
order. The cult-drama enacting Ninurta’s victory over Anzu was represented symbolically in
order to keep violence out of society and to reinforce social integration.
Apart from the cultic representation of Ninurta chasing Anzu, the representations of
Anzu as an attribute of a deity during the first millennium fall into two categories: first,
Anzu is associated with a goddess and, secondly, Anzu accompanies the god Adad. When a
goddess stands on the back of Anzu, the scene includes a male deity who stands on his own
associated animal. The goddess is represented either surrounded by an aura decorated with
stars, or armed with a quiver and sword. The goddess with the aura appears together with
the god Nabû, who stands on muß≈ußßu holding a stylus in his hand (fig. 58);58 the armed
goddess appears together with a god standing on a bull who may be Adad (fig. 59).59 The
goddess may well be Ißtar or the spouse of the male deity represented in the scene. In
Babylon, Anzu seems often to be associated with Adad rather than Ninurta in the first
millennium B.C. A lapis lazuli cylinder dated to the ninth century B.C. is engraved with the
image of Adad holding a tether tied to Anzu, who is crouching at the foot of the god (fig.
60). Originally ‘the seal of Adad’, a later inscription reads “the property of Marduk, great
lord, his lord, Esarhaddon, king of the universe, king of Assyria, has given (this seal) for his
life”.60 The seal is of Babylonian origin, not Assyrian, for the god is represented wearing a
typical Babylonian costume.61 It can be speculated that the seal was brought to Assyria as
tribute when Sennacherib conquered Babylon, but was later returned by Esarhaddon, son of
Sennacherib, who reconstructed the city of Babylon to appease the gods’ anger. The seal of
Adad was thus dedicated to Marduk by the Assyrian king Esarhaddon, who seems to have
been obsessed by the idea of atoning for his father’s sin of the destruction of Babylon.62
The figure of Anzu in the first millennium B.C. was thus associated not only with
Ninurta but also with Adad and perhaps Ißtar. The fierce characteristics deriving from
Anzu’s leonine nature were originally attributed to the power of thunderstorms, the link
surviving in Anzu’s association with the storm god. The association with the goddess may
derive from her traditional association with the lion, but the reason for the additional attribute
of the bird of prey is not known. From the animal’s point of view, Anzu’s new associations
with a goddess, in addition to Ninurta and Adad, provide evidence that Anzu was used, to
some extent, as a conceptual model to convey arbitrary ideas in this period. In other words,

58 Porada 1948, fig. 691.


59 Collon 1987, fig. 351; cf. Porada 1948, fig. 694.
60 Collon 1987, 131 and 134 under 563.
61 Das Vorderasiatisches Museum Berlin 1992, Abb. 67; Collon 1987, fig. 563.
62 Cf. Brinkman 1983, 34-42; K. Watanabe 1985, 389-392.
136 Composite animals

Anzu’s mythological role was emphasised only when the creature appeared in the scene
where it was being chased by Ninurta. On the other hand, Anzu, liberated from its
mythologically defined role, could serve as a neutral symbol, which could be operated
flexibly according to a particular combination of concepts. When these concepts were
projected onto Anzu, its mythological function was pushed into the background, and the
properties selected for a new association were emphasised, thus making Anzu available for
further thought operations. The symbolic meanings conveyed by Anzu must therefore be
interpreted by examining Anzu’s iconographical contexts: i.e., the objects and gods
represented with the figure of Anzu, since in this period Anzu was used to evoke ideas other
than those associated with its original function.

V.2. The Horned Lion Griffin

A Horned Lion Griffin, previously called a ‘horned lion’,63 is a composite animal whose
body parts derive from four different animals. The creature has a lion’s head with bull’s
horns, bird’s wings sprouting from the foreleg joints, lion’s forepaws, a bird’s hindlegs, and
a scorpion’s tail. The Horned Lion Griffin occurs predominantly in the Neo-Assyrian
period, in representations on cylinder seals and in clay or stone reliefs. The creature is
depicted surmounted by a male deity who chases after Anzu with a bow and arrow, or by a
god holding either an axe or a mace. The Horned Lion Griffin always appears as an attribute
of a god; it never occurs by itself. Although the representation of the Horned Lion Griffin is
commonly found in iconography in the first millennium B.C., its name has not been
identified in texts.

V.2.1. The Horned Lion Griffin associated with Ninurta


The representation of a shooting god standing on a Horned Lion Griffin, who pursues Anzu,
is one of the common motifs depicted on Neo-Assyrian cylinder seals (figs. 17, 56, 57), as
discussed in the previous section. The scene representing the theme of Ninurta’s battle
against Anzu based on the cultic footrace (lismu) has been discussed in Chapters II.2 and
V.1.3. The god is shown releasing an arrow from his fully drawn bow, which is often
decorated with several stars over the arch of the bow.64 In addition, he carries a sickle on his
back. Anzu stands rampant in front of the deity, turning its head towards the god. The
63 Cf. RlA 7, 98-99: Löwendrache §3c.
64 The bow with stars: Moortgat 1966, fig. 595; Porada 1948, fig. 689; Muscarella 1981, fig. 88; Frankfort
1939, pl. XXXV-b. The bow without stars: Moortgat 1966, figs. 615-616; Delaporte 1910, figs. 314-315;
Porada 1948, fig. 690.
The Horned Lion Griffin 137
Horned Lion Griffin stretches its body as it runs below the deity, who is also shown in a
running posture; sometimes it has a three-pronged object in its mouth.65
The three-pronged object protruding from the mouth of the Horned Lion Griffin may
be identical with the three-pronged thunder bolts grasped by Ninurta in the Nimrud relief.66
The arrow held by the god is occasionally also three-pronged.67 This must be an artistic
solution, to combine the two separate weapons, three-pronged thunder bolts and arrows,
attributed to Ninurta. Although three-pronged lightning bolts are usually attributed to Adad
from the early second millennium onwards, the same attribute was chosen for Ninurta by
Aßßurnaπirpal II in the Nimrud relief. Ninurta’s divine function of responsibility for
thunderstorms was originally emphasised during the third millennium, in both texts and art
(cf. Chapter III.2). When the god was exalted as the chief deity of Kalhu in the first
millennium, when Aßßurnaπirpal II rebuilt the city as the new capital of Assyria, Ninurta’s
original divine function may have been revised and emphasised in the artistic representations,
thus creating a phase in which Ninurta and Adad had features in common. The martial
aspect of the god was stressed by his weapons, a bow and arrows, with which Ninurta is
closely associated. In the myth of Anzu, Ninurta assaulted Anzu by shooting arrows in his
first attack.68 Tiglath-pileser III dedicated a pointed arrow to Ninurta in the Ißtar Temple.69
In astrological texts, Ninurta is identified with Sirius, the ‘Arrow’ star.70 In the vassal
treaties of Esarhaddon, the association of Ninurta with arrows appears in a prayer: “may
Ninurta fell you with his fierce arrow”. 71 Since the thunderstorm often occurs
metaphorically in the martial context, these two properties were integrated and expressed in
artistic representations in the form of a ‘three-pronged arrow’ attributed to Ninurta. The
Horned Lion Griffin can be seen as manifesting a divine function of Ninurta, because the
creature occasionally has a three-pronged arrow projecting from its mouth. The reason for
associating this creature with Ninurta may be sought in the artistic difficulty of depicting
Anzu as Ninurta’s enemy rather than as his attributed animal in the battle scene. As the
theme of the battle between Ninurta and Anzu occurred frequently on Neo-Assyrian seals,
another divine associated animal may have been sought for Ninurta in order to be able to
show the god accompanied by an attributed animal fighting against Anzu. Because the
Horned Lion Griffin looks slightly different from Anzu, artists were able to depict both
animals in the same scene without causing confusion about the message to be conveyed.

65 Porada 1948, fig. 692; Delaporte 1910, figs. 314, 355; Moortgat-Correns 1988, Abb. 5; Moortgat 1966,
fig. 595.
66 Muscarella 1981, 131.
67 Porada 1948, fig. 689; Moortgat-Correns 1988, Abb. 7.
68 bin.ßar.dadm∆ II 57-61.
69 Van Buren 1945, 158: the arrow bears an inscription describing the warlike deeds of the Assyrians.
70 Gössmann ÍL IV/2, no. 212; BM 86396 II 6.
71 Iraq 20, 62, col. 6: 425.
138 Composite animals

V.2.2. The Horned Lion Griffin attributed to other deities


The Horned Lion Griffin is not an attribute exclusively of Ninurta but is shared by three
other gods during the Neo-Assyrian period. Moortgat-Correns believed that most of the
deities represented standing on the Horned Lion Griffin can be identified with Ninurta. 72
However, other divine attributes, such as an axe and lightning bolts, which appear with the
animal attribute in the scene,73 must be considered before determining the identity of the god.
The Maltai reliefs comprise four different panels carved on natural limestone rock, each of
which shows seven deities in procession, each standing on the back of an animal, and the
figure of Sennacherib, who appears twice on each panel: in front of the procession and at the
end of the procession. The Horned Lion Griffin occurs together with deities who occupy the
first, third, and sixth places in the procession, identified as Aßßur, Sin, and Adad
respectively.74 The identification of the first deity as Aßßur is not in dispute because the
Assyrian chief god occupied the primary place both in the Assyrian god-lists and in artistic
representations. The identification of the third god as Sin is established by the presence of
the crescent attached to his horned crown. The sixth deity, Adad (fig. 61), stands not only
on the back of the Horned Lion Griffin,75 but also on the back of the bull that joins the
Horned Lion Griffin in one example (Relief II) (fig. 62).76 The god holds in both hands
objects which look like a spray of foliage but are generally thought to be lightning forks.
The identification of this god as Adad is supported by the contemporary textual evidence of
the god-lists.77 The additional animal attribute, the bull, provides further evidence for
identifying the god as Adad, because the animal was a conventional attribute of Adad from
the beginning of the second millennium.
A seal impression from a private collection shows a divine figure standing on the
back of a Horned Lion Griffin (fig. 63).78 The god holds an axe in his left hand and carries
two sickles, one of which hangs from the quiver over his shoulder; the other is attached to
his waist-belt. In addition, he carries another small axe which protrudes from the top of the
quiver. This central divine figure is flanked by two standards, each of which depicts the
image of a deity standing on an associated animal. Before them stands a priest in a posture
of worship, and he is followed by a goddess who faces towards the central god and the two
standards. The seal bears an inscription which reads: “(the seal) of Aßßur-ßumu-iddina,

72 Moortgat-Correns 1988, 117-130.


73 Porada 1948, fig. 692; Delaporte 1910, fig. 355; Moortgat-Correns 1988, Abb. 5.
74 The gods on the Maltai reliefs have been identified by: Thureau-Dangin 1924, 185-197; Bachmann 1927;
Boehmer 1976, 46ff.; Lambert 1985a , 88-89; RlA 7, 320-322, under Maltai.
75 Boehmer 1976, figs. 43 (Relief I), 71 (Relief III), 93 (Relief IV).
76 Boehmer 1976, fig. 55.
77 Lambert 1985a , 89.
78 Moortgat-Correns 1988, 123, Abb. 5a and 5b.
The Horned Lion Griffin 139
ßangû-priest (lúSANGA) of Nergal (d MAÍ.MAÍ) and Adad (d IM) of Harran, of Ninurta
(d MAÍ) and Adad (d IM) of Kal≈u, after [...]”.79 There is disagreement between Lambert
and Deller/Pongratz-Leisten concerning the reading of Ninurta’s name (d MAÍ), which Deller
and Pongratz-Leisten regard as a scribal mistake for the name of Nergal (d MAÍ.MAÍ).80 In
the iconography, however, three male deities are depicted. One is shown in the centre,
standing on the Horned Lion Griffin, and the other two are depicted on top of the standards,
where the god on the left is in a posture of shooting and the god on the right is holding a
sickle in his hand. Both are shown in a running posture. Although it is difficult to make out
the details, the associated animal on the right is winged and that on the left is not. If the
central divine figure holding an axe is assumed to be Adad, whose name is mentioned twice,
and the other two figures Ninurta and Nergal, Lambert’s reading of the divine names falls
into place. Although it is sometimes true that inscriptions on cylinder seals do not agree with
what is represented in the iconography, it is perfectly possible that the owner chose or even
ordered a design corresponding to the inscription. Since the owner of this seal is an
established ßangû-priest, it is most likely that he was literate and able to understand the
inscription as well as what is shown in the scene.
The attribution of the Horned Lion Griffin to the god Adad can be seen as the revival
of the Akkadian iconographical tradition in which the storm god, presumably an aspect of the
god Ninurta at that time (see Chapter III.2), was manifested in the leonine characteristics of
Anzu. The association of the roaring aspect of the lion with thunderstorms must have been
regarded as appropriate for representing the divine characteristics of the storm god, who was
combined with his bovine association observed in the second millennium. Both aspects are
easy to incorporate into the body structure of the Horned Lion Griffin, which has the horns
of a bull as well as the head of a lion. The attribution of the creature to Sin may be explained
by reference to fertility, which is typical of his divine functions. The three animals combined
in the Horned Lion Griffin — the lion, the bull, and the scorpion — have close associations
with the idea of fertility. The lion’s symbolic representation of sexual fertility is manifest in
its association with the goddess Ißtar; the bull has a wide range of symbolism reflecting
virility, agricultural fertility, and sexual fertility; the scorpion’s strong association with
sexual fertility is known from the frequent occurrence of the creature in representations of the
so-called sacred marriage, which may go back to the Early Dynastic period.81
A stone relief found at Aßßur shows a god standing on a Horned Lion Griffin and
holding a mace in his hand (fig. 64).82 The god is accompanied by astral symbols: a winged
disc, seven dots, a crescent, and an eight-pointed star. This relief is regarded as representing

79 NABU 1991/1, no. 14; and ibid. 1991/4, no. 111.


80 NABU 1991/3, no. 77.
81 RlA 4, 267, §16.
82 Das Vorderasiatische Museum Berlin, 1992, Abb. 115; Andrae 1938, Tafel 22 b.
140 Composite animals

the image of the god Aßßur. In the Maltai reliefs, Aßßur is represented standing not only on
the Horned Lion Griffin but also on muß≈ußßu (fig. 65). The association of Aßßur with the
Horned Lion Griffin may derive from the possible association of Aßßur’s divine
characteristics with Ninurta. Lambert has suggested that Marduk’s divine characteristic as a
prime monster-killer was originally based on the divine nature of Ninurta.83 On the other
hand, it can be assumed that Aßßur’s divine characteristics were influenced by those of
Marduk from as early as the Middle Assyrian period. The god Aßßur is the deified town of
Aßßur, so we have no personal data about him, such as his genealogy and stock epithets.84 It
is known that the statue of Marduk was taken from Babylon by Tukulti-Ninurta I, and this
statue played an important role in Assyrian state ritual during the Middle Assyrian period.85
There is evidence that the ak¬tu-festival was held in Assyria in this period;86 the ceremony is
based on an episode in which Marduk establishes his divine supremacy by slaying his
enemies in En∑ma eliß, and his victory is symbolised by placing his statue on a dais called
Tiåmat.87 The Neo-Assyrian king Sennacherib clearly attempted to replace Marduk with the
god Aßßur after the destruction of Babylon. It is likely that, in the course of upgrading
Aßßur from the chief deity of the city of Aßßur to the supreme god of the Assyrian empire,
Ninurta’s divine characteristics were incorporated into Aßßur, as they had already been
integrated into the divine nature of Marduk, in order to present him as a prime divine hero.
The representation of Aßßur on a Middle Assyrian seal impression on vassal treaties
of Tukulti-Ninurta I can be seen as an early example associating Aßßur with a type of
Horned Lion Griffin. The seal depicts two deities, both standing on their associated animals;
a lesser god and a kneeling worshipper are shown between them (fig. 66). The god on the
left stands on a bull and holds an axe in his right hand and a rod and ring in his left. The god
on the right stands on the back of a type of Horned Lion Griffin, which has a lion’s tail
instead of a scorpion’s; the god holds double-lightning bolts in his right hand and a stick in
the other.88 There is some disagreement about the identification of the two gods. 89
However, it is probably safe to regard the god on the left as Adad because he is represented
83 Lambert 1985a, 55-60: Lambert has pointed out that the composition of EnËma eliß is consciously based
on the myths of Ninurta, especially on the Anzu myth, in which the narrative structure of Ninurta mythology is
deliberately reflected in order to present Marduk as Ninurta redivivus. Marduk’s unsuccessful first attack on
Tiåmat and the victory achieved in his second attack by using winds to immobilise his enemy, as described in
En∑ma eliß, correspond to the story of Ninurta’s battle with Anzû. Marduk’s victory over eleven monsters,
which are finally attached to the hero’s foot, is taken from Ninurta’s heroic deeds as described in his myths
bin.ßar.dadm∆ (the Anzû myth), Angim, Lugale, and Gudea Cylinder A. In addition, Marduk is described as
the ‘renderer of a service’ ( mutîr gimilli) in En∑ma eliß, which is, in fact, a stock epithet of Ninurta, originating
in the myth of Anzu. Thus Marduk is perceived as replacing Ninurta as the prime monster-slayer in En∑ma
eliß.
84 Lambert 1983, 82-86.
85 Van Driel 1969, 54.
86 Van Driel 1969, 165-166.
87 Lambert 1963, 189-190.
88 Wiseman 1958, fig. 6; Collon 1987, fig. 560.
89 Wiseman (1958) considered the god on the left to be Aßßur or Anu, and the god on the right to be Adad.
Moortgat-Correns (1988) took the former as Adad and the latter as Ninurta.
The Horned Lion Griffin 141
with his bull and axe, and the god on the right is Aßßur, as the inscription engraved on the
seal bears the names of Aßßur and Adad.90 If this hypothesis is right, Aßßur was already at
this time associated with a type of Horned Lion Griffin and thunder bolts as his divine
attributes, which themselves are closely associated with the divine characteristics of Ninurta.
This tradition may have foreshadowed the subsequent development, in which Ninurta was
exalted as the chief god of the new capital of Assyria, Kal≈u, in the time of Aßßurnaπirpal II.
Another example of the god Aßßur standing on the Horned Lion Griffin, which here has a
lion’s tail, is shown on a relief excavated at Aßßur (fig. 64).91 This representation, and the
Middle Assyrian example, can be regarded as a ‘prototype’ of the Horned Lion Griffin in the
course of its development as Aßßur’s associated animal that appeared commonly in the first
millennium.
To sum up, Anzu originally represented the atmospheric forces manifested in a
thunderstorm. The upper body of the creature is taken from the lion, which embodies fierce
qualities as well as the ability to roar that represents the auditory aspect of thunder. The
wings and the lower body of Anzu represent a bird of prey, which endows Anzu not only
with the fierce characteristics of the bird but also with the ability to fly. Anzu’s symbolic
role appears to have changed from the emblem of Ningirsu and a faithful servant of Enlil to
one of the slain enemies of Ninurta during the third and second millennia. This change can
be interpreted as showing the dual aspects of Anzu, each of which was emphasised and
reflected the role of the creature, but both sets of characteristics were always inherent in
Anzu. In the first millennium Anzu typically featured in the ritual footrace in which the
creature is pursued and conquered by Ninurta. Anzu was also associated with Adad and a
goddess. The Horned Lion Griffin consists of body parts taken from four different animals:
lion, bull, bird of prey, and scorpion. The creature was invented in the first millennium and,
like the first-millennium Anzu, the Horned Lion Griffin was not only associated with
Ninurta but also with Aßßur, Sin, and Adad. Its composite body structure gives a visual
form to multiple divine functions: each component evokes different symbolic ideas. The
wide range of animal symbolism represented by the individual body parts of the Horned
Lion Griffin and Anzu enabled both creatures to serve more than one deity in the first
millennium, and each animal body part functioned as a symbolic medium to convey notions
associated with the individual divine responsibility.

90 K. Watanabe 1985, 386; Dr Kazuko Watanabe also pointed out that the dating of the seal is undoubtedly
Middle Assyrian, because the style of the inscription is typical of that period.
91 Andrae 1938, Tafel 22 b.
CONCLUSION

§ 1. General remarks

This research set out to clarify the symbolic role of animals in Mesopotamian culture by
examining in particular two animals, the lion and the bull, in four different contexts: the
royal context, the royal hunt, their divine associations, and their architectural function. In
addition, two composite animals, Anzu and the Horned Lion Griffin, have been discussed in
the context of their associations with deities, as a case study. In previous studies, the
analysis of symbolic aspects of Mesopotamian expressions, both in texts and art, has been
dealt with mainly on an elementary level: the occurrence of symbols was noted in order to
establish a link between the symbol and what was symbolised. This study, however, has
focused on the inner mechanism of symbolism by applying theories attested outside the field
of Assyriology. The aim has been to demonstrate the achievement of the Mesopotamians,
who developed sophisticated systems of symbolism for the purpose of operating and
expressing ideas. This insight would not have been obtained unless Mesopotamian
examples had been examined in the framework of theories which enable us to investigate a
deeper level of meaning. Comparative approaches risk imposing externally derived models
and mechanisms upon the cases examined. Even though the two societies compared may
have similar social structures and patterns of behaviour, cultural factors are never identical. It
is important, therefore, to deal with the material in question primarily in its own context.
Theories and models applied to cultural studies need to be handled carefully. A certain space
must be left between the case of the model and the case to which it is applied, in order to
allow for cultural factors that operate in specific circumstances. Successful application of
these theories and models enables us to examine the evidence and materials studied
previously from a different angle, and it results in fruitful discussion of the topic.
In concluding this research, the outcome of each discussion is re-assessed by
examining it from a wider perspective in order to explain some fundamental concepts
underlying the Mesopotamian perception of the universe. Unlike anthropological studies of
a modern ethnic community, explanations cannot be provided in our study by a
‘contemporary’ who has preserved the same cultural values; nor by carrying out ‘field
research’ to observe how people behave under different circumstances and thus reflect their
perception of the world, since the culture in question died out more than 2,500 years ago.
All we can do is to put fragmented information together and interpret it on the basis of the
evidence available. This work is based on our own contemporary rationale, which may not
General remarks 143
have been the same as that of the Mesopotamians, and is influenced by our own cultural
background and history. However, there is no other option, and we must bear all these risks
in mind as we deal with each piece of evidence.
First, a fundamental question must be answered: can the animals examined be
regarded as ‘symbols’ or not? Previous studies — e.g., Brown and Heimpel — have
avoided interpreting animal references occurring in literary texts metaphorically or literally.
What I aimed to achieve by applying Max Black’s interaction theory to Mesopotamian
metaphors was to establish whether they can actually function as valid metaphoric
expressions as defined by the modern scholar. Modern scholars may have tended to regard
the ancient peoples as ‘primitive’ in every aspect of their way of thinking. The fact that
research in this field has been pursued mainly in the countries of the ‘Occident’ might reflect
a perception of the ancient peoples of Iraq to some extent consistent with ‘Orientalism’. In
this study, the analysis of metaphoric expressions has been carried out by identifying the
primary and secondary subjects, and this approach has enabled us, in most cases, to
recognise the particular ideas they were intended to express. The value of this analysis is that
the examination of metaphoric expression has, for the first time, been underpinned by an
objective method. There were, however, several cases in which the metaphoric intention
remained imprecise, especially in some Sumerian expressions. This lack of precision may be
a problem for us, but it may also have been one for the ancients, as they tried to find a way of
articulating the meaning that was originally intended. Perhaps it was not so important, in
many cases, to clarify the symbolic meaning, because such ‘imprecise’ expressions can be
regarded as having a different purpose from mere articulation of the meaning. They are
heavily dependent on the commonplaces from which the reader needs to extract the
appropriate implications, and in which the role played by a set of associative implications is
greater than in better-articulated metaphoric expressions, where the underlying ideas are
readily evoked. The function of such expressions may have been the imposition and
reinforcement of the set of ideas which were a paradigm for society.
We have seen how animals were used as metaphoric media in both Sumerian and
Akkadian statements. The fact that the intention of the metaphors has been clarified by
applying the theory suggests that they function in the same way as what we regard as
metaphor today. In other words, Mesopotamian metaphoric statements satisfy the definition
of metaphor, thereby identifying the animals as ‘symbols’. That is to say, the animals
themselves were not the ‘end’ in such expressions; they were the ‘means’ of representing
ideas. The main emphasis was always on the primary subject — the gods or the king in this
research — and the two subjects are never confused in the original expressions. For
example, the Mesopotamians never confused the role of the king with that of the lion:
although the king was described in terms of the lion, the lion was never explained by the
king. Modern scholars tend to believe that the reason the king is compared to the lion is that
144 Conclusion

the lion is the ‘king’ of animals, thus applying our view of the animal hierarchy and
expressing it in terms of the structure of human society. However, this reasoning is a
product of the modern mind. The animals were a means of enhancing and drawing out
particular qualities identified in something else, and the means and the end were quite clear in
the Mesopotamian mind.
The importance of ‘reading’ animal symbols in specific contexts has been
demonstrated in the royal context. The interaction approach has been particularly effective
where a symbol has a sufficiently informative framework to create the context in which the
symbol needs to be interpreted. In the royal context, the lion and the bull have the function
of explaining the king’s royal properties in terms of their own properties. The Sumerian lion
metaphors have been classified on three different levels according to the degree of
concreteness of the statement, ranging from a quality evoked by the natural gestures and
behaviour of the animal to an idea implied by conceptual references to a particular state of the
animal. By examining each example, it has been possible to establish that although there are
numerous animal references in Sumerian royal metaphors, what is intended by such
statements is, in some cases, not explicit due to the lack of a contextual framework. In the
Assyrian royal metaphors, on the other hand, references to animals occur less frequently, but
the meaning of each statement can be determined more easily, since the focus of the metaphor
is surrounded by sufficient information to create a metaphorical frame. We should be aware,
however, that the Sumerian examples derive mainly from the royal hymns, and those in
Akkadian from the royal annals. The degree of preciseness required in each statement may
also reflect, to some extent, the genre of literature in which it occurs. In Assyrian metaphors,
the features emphasised by exactly the same statement can vary according to the context or
frame supplied. This reveals importantly that the nature of symbols is not static or fixed but
dynamic and interactive.
This study has shown that, in metaphoric statements, the function of metaphor is not
necessarily to create a ‘new’ thought by juxtaposing the two metaphoric subjects which have
analogical relations, but is rather to select and focus on particular aspects which are already
present and have been associated by the process of semantic interaction between the two
subjects. The idea emphasised in such a statement is, therefore, not something ‘new’; it is a
part of existing associations that are ready to be evoked. In symbolic representations of
visual art, a similar interactive process is observed when the king is depicted together with
the lion or the bull. The emblematic design of the Assyrian royal seal impression, in which
the king fights a lion on foot, was recognised as the symbol of authority authenticating royal
property. The lion in this motif is represented with a ‘wide-open mouth’ and with a forepaw
‘raised’ — a posture identical with that described in royal metaphors which convey the
animal’s aggressive features. The role of the lion in the royal combat scene is to embody the
aggressive features attributed to the king. In other words, the figure of the lion, as the
General remarks 145
secondary subject of the ‘metaphoric’ representation, organises our view of the king, and the
king cannot be identified as possessing this quality of aggressiveness or fierceness without
the animal, which is the concrete image of such properties. The presence of the animal in the
scene is, therefore, essential. This theory can also be applied to the Assyrian royal lion-hunt
scenes. Lions depicted in the reliefs in Aßßurnaπirpal II’s Throne Room, as well as the
numerous lions in reliefs in Aßßurbanipal’s palace, may also have served the same function
of embodying properties such as bravery, aggressiveness, fearlessness, nobleness, and
fierceness, to be associated with the king. I was deeply impressed when I first saw the lion-
hunt reliefs of Aßßurbanipal, and what moved me so much was the way in which the lions
are represented with dignity and respect. There is no single example in which the animal is
depicted with the intention of humiliation, despite the fact that the lions are ruthlessly pursued
and killed. This characteristic representation of lions in the hunting scenes presents a clear
contrast with that of enemies: captured enemies are tortured and humiliated, their heads are
detached from their bodies, they are trampled on by the victors, and the bodies are
deliberately exposed to humiliation by being impaled on stakes. Although the lions in these
scenes may also represent hostile forces, if the animals were perceived merely as substitutes
for these human enemies, they too would have been humiliated by mutilation. The fact that
the lions are always depicted with dignity suggests that the animals at the same time
embodied strong aspects of the king, and that the artists as well as ordinary Assyrians shared
the view that ‘the king is a lion’ or ‘the lions belong to the king’, so the animals had to be
represented with great care and respect.
Chapter II discusses another aspect of the royal lion hunt, interpreting it from the
mythological point of view. In previous studies, the significance of the royal hunt has been
considered only in terms of the relationship between the king and the animal hunted: the
king’s victory over his prey was often regarded as conveying the same message as a martial
victory achieved by the king. In other words, the symbolic connotation was always confined
to a realistic level by drawing a parallel between the killing of the lion and that of enemies,
without attempting to expand the interpretation to the religious and mythological level which
functioned as a superstructure of Mesopotamian society. This study has focused on the
mythological aspect of the hunt, drawing a parallel between the king’s hunting deeds and the
achievements of mythological heroes. The representation of the libation ritual performed
after the hunt requires the royal hunt to be interpreted in the framework of ritual. A royal
context evokes the properties of a lion that correspond to those of the king. When the same
animal occurs in a mythological context, however, the animal’s other role, as pharmakos, is
emphasised. Seen as pharmakos , lions have the symbolic function of representing
mythological figures (Anzu and other enemies of Ninurta), since they are the means of
reinforcing social order when subdued by the mythological hero (Ninurta). The heroic
conquest of pharmakos in the framework of the ritual hunt resulted not only in reinforcement
146 Conclusion

of the social structure but also in securing the place of the king in society. It can be deduced
that when the mythological connotations of the royal lion hunt are emphasised, the death of
the lions at the hands of the king is an essential element: the lions not only represent
mythological pharmakos but also embody the essence of dangerous wild forces on a deeper
level. These destructive forces can bring about chaos and disorder, but they can also be a
catalyst for beneficial regeneration. This duality is important both in Anzu, slain by the
divine hero, and in the lions, hunted by the king: they embody the destructive forces to be
transformed for a beneficial purpose.
The Assyrian royal hunt is an extremely informative model of how the members of
Assyrian society were incorporated into the social paradigm that was effectively imprinted on
each individual’s mind by conveying information about the divine function that oversaw
society, about the place of the king between the wild and the civilised, and about the king’s
function as a bringer of wild forces which guarantee the continuity of life (fertility) in
society. Acting out the actual killing of pharmakos represented the restricted code for
promoting social integration and for maintaining the social structure. On the other hand,
when the role of the lion is to provide an explanation of the properties of the king, the death
of the animal no longer plays a major role but is pushed into the background. What is
focused on is the effective attribution to the king of desirable qualities, which are embodied
by individual lions represented in the scene. Some lions, for example, charge in rage at the
royal chariot, jumping at the vehicle and displaying splendid muscular bodies beautifully
stretched out in the air (fig. 67), and others demonstrate unceasing bravery in combat despite
the serious wounds that impair their physical functioning (fig. 68). The lions in these scenes
thus represent the essence of heroism and the virtue of warriorship. These properties were
regarded as essential to the quality of leadership as conceived by Assyrian imperialism,
which emphasised domination by force. In the case of the bull hunt, the role of the bull in
the Throne Room reliefs of Aßßurnaπirpal II was to convey the notion associated with the
episode of the legendary hero Gilgameß. The royal bull- and lion-hunt scenes were
originally juxtaposed in Aßßurnaπirpal II’s throne room in order to present the conceptual
framework of Assyrian kingship: the heroic deeds of the two mythological heroes were
enhanced and superimposed upon the king’s hunting deeds in order to locate the king’s act
of hunting in a wider cosmological context. The structure of kingship was thus reinforced
on the spiritual level. The animals were the symbolic media by which the ideology
surrounding the king was expressed and conveyed. At the same time, they acted as a trigger
to evoke notions associated with mythological themes, in order to represent the real world as
subject to the divine world.
The perception of ‘wild’ and ‘domesticated’ 147
§ 2. The perception of the ‘wild’ and the ‘domesticated’

In the case of Sumerian royal metaphors expressed by the bull, both wild and domestic
species occur, and various properties, ranging from the appearance of the animal or animal
body part to the power associated with the animal manifesting itself through particular
behaviour, are focused on and attributed to the king. In contrast, only the wild species
feature in the Akkadian royal metaphors which describe the king. This difference raises an
important question about the fundamental recognition of qualities attributed to the animals.
Moreover, the Sumerian use of and the Akkadian avoidance of domesticated bulls may
reveal a basic difference concerning the perception of the universe, each reflecting its own
cultural value. In the Sumerian bull metaphor, there is no clear difference in the
representation of the bull, either wild or domesticated: the animal’s aggressive behaviour is
characterised by the act of ‘goring’, which can be observed regardless of the animal’s
domesticated state, and the animal’s appearance, power, and virility are mentioned repeatedly,
reflecting admiration of the animal. It was, however, only the domesticated species which
acquired the symbolic role of representing the royal lineage in the Ur III period: the
identification of the king with the city god of Ur, Sin, was achieved through the symbolic
medium of the bull, reflecting the concept of deified kingship attested in the dynasty. It can
be deduced that although the Sumerians were aware of the different status of wild (aam) and
domesticated (gg u d ) bovine animals, they were not necessarily endowed with different
attributes as a consequence of their domestication. It has been suggested that some negative
nuances attached to the domesticated species can be observed in Sumerian proverbs (see
Chapter I.2). However, proverbs are difficult to interpret, unless the situation in which they
were used is known. Proverbs without contexts cannot provide any valid information for the
current purpose. It can be said that the Sumerians attributed similar values to the
domesticated species and the wild species, and the original nature of the animal was regarded
as more important than any secondary status acquired as the result of human intervention.
In anthropological research, three different models have been suggested to show how
people attribute conceptual values to wild and domesticated animals, the perception of which
bears a close relationship to people’s perception of the world. These models are taken from
the Nuer, the Lele, and the Fipa, tribal communities located in central Africa. A comparative
study of these three models was carried out by Roy Willis in his book Man and Beast
(1974). The Nuer provide a model in which domesticated animals (cattle) occupy the
primary place in spiritual culture; the Lele, in contrast, provide a model in which the wild
animal is regarded as primary; the Fipa regard both animals as basically conveying the same
values, any difference being in the degree of domestication. Individual members of the Nuer
are closely associated with domesticated bovine animals, with which they identify
themselves. They regard the castrated species as conveying the primary value: Evans-
148 Conclusion

Pritchard reported that the Nuer admire the fat ox for his beauty and grandeur: the animal
represents the moral constraint of sexual inhibition and the unifying concept of agnatic
solidarity.1 The intact domestic bull, on the other hand, which is regarded as closer to the
wild species in its value, is associated with the concepts of ambition, divisive self-interest,
and uninhibited sexuality,2 whereas the wild animals are non-meaning and the inessential
exterior of the self and the social group. In short, oxen are the superior form of the domestic
animal, and they represent the significance of the universe, society, and the true, inner self.
The Lele, in contrast, regard the wild animal as representing the inner, true essence of man,
and the domestic animal is devoid of symbolic significance.3 Both societies oppose the wild
and the domesticated animals conceptually. However, the values attributed to them are
inverse, thus they provide contrasting models. Finally, the Fipa avoid the dichotomised
perception of the universe between statically opposed components, such as the Nuer worlds
of wild and domestic animals, or the Lele village and forest; rather, the Fipa regard the
universe as being a unity and dynamic.4 For the Fipa, there is no essential difference
between wild and domestic animals, both of which are subject, though in differing degrees,
to the overall process of domestication. The Fipa consider it their duty to establish a
progressive domination over the wild, the bush, by extending human control.
These three models provide a valuable insight into the major role that animals (wild
and domestic) can play in the formulation of a social structure which reflects a particular way
of understanding the universe. The principles observed in these perceptions of animals are
universally reflected on various levels in society. For example, the principle emphasised in
Nuer society is ‘duality’ or ‘balanced opposition’, which is typically identified with human
twins, representing the paradox of cosmic unity and division. The same principle is
observed in the formal opposition of Spirit and creation, sky and earth, on the grandest scale
of cosmic architecture; human society is mirrored in the symbiotic society of cattle; the
bovine order is opposed to the domain of wild creatures; individuals or groups and wild
animal species are juxtaposed; man is paired with ox in a symbolic drama. The whole range
of Nuer ecological, social, and psychic organisation is compared to opposed and balanced
complexes of symbolic associations between bull and ox. The structure of Nuer society is
thus a mirror image of the postulated structure of the natural order.
Returning to the Sumerian use of bovine metaphors in royal and divine contexts, the
state of the domesticated species (ggud) applied to these contexts is not specified with respect
to castration, but it may well be the ‘ox’ which was meant when the admirable appearance of
the animal was mentioned (e.g., ‘great bull with splendid limbs’), and the intact bull when the

1 Evans-Pritchard 1956, 254.


2 Beidelman 1957, 462-464.
3 Douglas 1957, 46-58.
4 Willis 1974, 114-129.
The perception of ‘wild’ and ‘domesticated’ 149
animal was referred to in a martial context (e.g., ‘irresistible bull of the mountains’).
Although some aspects of the cultural values attributed to the ox by the Nuer, particularly
their adoration of the animal for its appearance, are also present in Sumerian perceptions of
the bull, the Sumerian approach to bovine animals is perhaps closest to the model of the Fipa
among the three. As in the case of the Fipa, the Sumerian perception of bovine animals does
not vary according to their status, whether wild or domesticated. However, further
investigation is required to answer the fundamental question of whether the Sumerians also
distinguished between different degrees of domestication, or whether they too regarded the
universe not in terms of dichotomisation but in terms of unity; both are tempting
interpretations. This must remain a suggestion, however, and the question remain open until
further evidence is available.
In support of the Akkadian avoidance of the domesticated species in royal and divine
contexts, the fact that the Sumerian g ud was deliberately translated differently in Akkadian
suggests that the value attributed to the animal differed according to its domesticated or wild
state. Semitic societies — such as the Akkad Dynasty, the First Dynasty of Babylon, and the
Neo-Assyrian empire — are typically described as centralised states that cultivated the
ideology of imperialism, in which domination by force played an essential role. The
desirable property of leadership reflected a necessary political function. The destructive and
fierce characteristics of wild animals were seen as appropriate symbols to convey such
qualities. The emphasis of these wild properties must have served to promote and reinforce
the dichotomising perception of the world, since the Akkadian-speaking population did not
necessarily regard themselves as ‘inferior to’ or ‘dependent on’ the wild, but the features
which differed from those of the civilised were further distinguished by the emphasis.
Akkadian myths also reflect a concept of polarity (discussed below); some aspects of the
Semitic mentality can be explained in terms of the operation of opposed ideas. The ideas
reflected in royal and divine contexts should not be taken as a picture of Mesopotamian
society as a whole, but what this category of evidence reveals concerning the evaluation of
animals can be seen as part of a complete conception of the cosmic and spiritual structure of
the universe, in which the underlying principles create multiple mirror images on different
levels.
The examination of these animals raises an important question concerning the
perception of the universe. In historical times, the Mesopotamians were no longer dependent
on nature to sustain their lives. They were the earliest people to experience the Neolithic
revolution: the domestication of animals and farming began as early as 9000-7000 bc, and
by 5000-4500 bc the degree of dietary dependence on hunting and gathering had decreased
dramatically. This does not mean, however, that they acquired complete control over nature:
on the one hand, people were extending their cultural control; on the other, they were still
threatened by unexpected natural disasters and by encounters with dangerous wild animals.
150 Conclusion

In order to reveal some underlying principles of their perception of the world, their
understanding of the relationship between nature (the wild) and culture (the civilised) needs
to be investigated. In addition, it is also important to examine the Mesopotamian
understanding of how humans came into being in relation to the world already existing prior
to the creation of man, and of how the human world was structured in relation to the entire
universe. This shows how the Mesopotamians explained human life in relation to nature.
Even though the sources available do not cover the entire period or the whole area, these are
significant matters which must be addressed here.

§ 3. The relationship between the ‘wild’ and the ‘civilised’

As Kirk pointed out in his study of Akkadian myths,5 the opposing ideas of the ‘wild’ and
the ‘civilised’ formed an important underlying principle in the Semitic perception of the
world. The values attached to each idea are not explicit in the statements; the ideas are
embodied in symbolic agents that manifest themselves typically in the mythological
framework. In myths, these concepts are represented by mythological characters within the
narrative scheme of the story and reflect these contrasting ideas. The treatment of these
characters can provide an insight by way of values projected onto the two opposing
concepts. The Akkadian version of the Epic of Gilgameß provides the most revealing
example for this purpose. The two major characters in the Epic, Gilgameß and Enkidu,
represent the concepts of the ‘civilised’ and the ‘wild’ respectively. Enkidu is the wild man
whose uncivilised nature is represented by his hairy body: the whole body is shaggy with
hair, he is endowed with head hair like a woman, and the locks of hair sprout like grain. He
knows neither people nor land; he feeds on grass with gazelles; he drinks at the water holes
with the wild animals (itti b∑lim) and enjoys the water alongside the herds of wild animals
(itti nammaßßê).6 The role of animals in this passage is to represent the ‘wild’, to which
Enkidu belongs, as opposed to the ‘civilised’ world, which is represented by Gilgameß, the
king of the city state of Uruk. Enkidu is then introduced into the civilised world by a trap: a
harlot is brought from the city for this purpose. Enkidu leaves the animals and is engaged in
a love affair with the harlot for “six days and seven nights”. This intense activity functions
as a ‘rite of passage’ to convert his nature into the ‘civilised’. After Enkidu experiences this
‘rite’, the wild animals (b∑l π∆ri), his previous friends, run off and leave him, as they realise
that Enkidu no longer belongs to the wild domain. He is thus rejected by the wild, and loses
his ability to run with the animals; instead he gains wisdom and greater understanding. The

5 Kirk 1970, 132-152.


6 Gilg. I ii 36-41; cf. ANET, 74-75.
The relationship between ‘wild’ and ‘civilised’ 151
harlot further induces Enkidu to go through another ‘passage’: he learns to drink strong
drink and to eat solid food.
On his arrival in Uruk, Enkidu prevents Gilgameß from entering a building in which
the king was going to spend the night. The two start wrestling in the market square so
violently that the doorposts shatter and the wall shakes. Gilgameß eventually “bent his one
knee with his (other) foot on the ground” (ik-mi-iπ-ma d GIÍ i-na ga-ag-ga-ri ßi-ip-ßu),7 and
this phrase has been interpreted as signifying that Gilgameß, by assuming such a posture,
successfully lifted Enkidu up in the air. Oppenheim suggested that the posture of the victor,
who must succeed in lifting his opponent off the ground, is identical with what is described
in this phrase, and it is represented in iconography by a hero, with one knee bent and the
other foot firmly on the ground, victoriously holding a lion over his head (fig. 69). 8
Gilgameß, however, turns away after his apparent victory, suggesting that he does not intend
to fight another round, so Enkidu acknowledges his defeat by recognising the divinely
ordained kingship of Gilgameß, and they become good friends. This episode shows how a
wild man, Enkidu, became a civilised man and was successfully integrated into civilisation.
In other words, the concept represented here articulates the process of the ‘wild’ being tamed
through the medium of a harlot. This idea can be interpreted in a general framework of
‘domestication’, in which wild species, the untamed, are converted into controllable and
useful resources for humans.
Another episode from the Epic of Gilgameß — the expedition to the cedar forest and
the conquest of Humbaba, the guardian of the forest, by Gilgameß and Enkidu — may also
represent a similar process of dominating the wild, this time more violently, by the slaying of
the monster Humbaba (fig. 70). Kirk regarded the journey to the cedar forest as the heroes’
move from “culture and the city into the mountain wilderness”,9 which is literally true, but
there is another aspect of ‘wilderness’ involved. The cedar forest lies in foreign lands (i.e.,
enemy lands) which are located beyond the ‘civilised’ city state of Uruk. Timber is a
precious natural resource, especially in southern Mesopotamia where no wood is grown, and
the only way to obtain it is to conquer enemy territory. In historical times, the kings of
Mesopotamia repeatedly launched expeditions against the area of the cedar mountains
(modern Lebanon) in order to keep the area under their control. Perceptions of foreign lands
are similar to those of the ‘wild’: they must be conquered, if not ‘tamed’ successfully. The
Humbaba episode not only represents the heroes’ move back to the ‘wild’ but also has a
historical element: it must be based on actual events that took place at the time of Gilgameß
or later kings.

7 Gilg. II vi 22-23.
8 Orientalia 17, 29-30.
9 Kirk 1970, 147.
152 Conclusion

Mesopotamian myths are only known to us by chance: the majority of them came
from archives which collected classical and contemporary texts selectively for purposes
which are often unknown. The myths available to us are those which survived in
Mesopotamia and have been recovered in modern archaeological excavations. However,
there must have been other myths which were not recorded and not kept in archives, and thus
were lost already in ancient times, together with those which have not yet been discovered by
modern scholars. In addition, Sumerian myths especially are problematic. Knowledge of the
Sumerian language is still at a rudimentary stage: interpretations of grammar and the
meaning of words have not been agreed, and this results in variant translations of the same
text. Bearing these difficulties in mind, the following may be suggested concerning the
differences observed in the Sumerian and Akkadian versions of the Gilgameß myths. The
Sumerian version of the Epic includes ‘Gilgameß and Aka’, ‘Gilgameß and the Land of
Living’, and ‘Gilgameß and the Bull of Heaven’, none of which present Enkidu as a ‘wild’
man or an ‘equal’ friend of Gilgameß. In the Akkadian version, the notions of the wild and
the civilised, which are represented symbolically by Enkidu and Gilgameß, are portrayed as
almost ‘equal’ until they start wrestling. Enkidu’s similarity and equality to Gilgameß are
emphasised even at the stage of his creation: the goddess Aruru is asked by the people of
Uruk to create a man in “his (Gilgameß’s) image and to let this new man be the equal of
Gilgameß”.10 When people see Enkidu for the first time, they say “he is like Gilgameß in
build; though shorter in stature, he is stronger of bone”,11 and “for Gilgameß, the godlike,
his equal has come forth”.12 Up to this point, the similarity of the two heroes is emphasised,
and this can be interpreted as the wild being perceived as the equal of the civilised.
However, when Enkidu is ‘domesticated’ by a harlot, the wild is converted and integrated
into the framework of the civilised. Moreover, with Enkidu’s defeat in the wrestling game
against Gilgameß, the power of the civilised achieves dominance over the wild. This process
of integration is not necessarily a violent conquest, but the underlying intention of extending
the territory governed by the cultural order plays a decisive role as a driving force. In the
Sumerian version, on the other hand, Enkidu’s ‘wild’ origin is not mentioned, and is
regarded by Kirk as an Akkadian innovation. This difference raises an important point:
although the Akkadian version depicts Enkidu with wild features and as an equal friend of
Gilgameß, the Sumerian version describes Enkidu as a subject of Gilgameß. Thus, the
former emphasises a polarised relationship — Enkidu versus Gilgameß, and the wild versus
the civilised — whereas the latter avoids this relationship, having no interest in the
enhancement of opposed ideas, but the stabilised structure of power is presupposed.

10 Gilg. I ii 31.
11 Gilg. II v 15-17.
12 Gilg. II v 27.
The relationship between ‘wild’ and ‘civilised’ 153
It would be helpful here to adduce models of nature-culture relationships clarified by
Willis in order to examine the underlying assumptions in the Akkadian version of the Epic of
Gilgameß. In the societies of the Nuer, Lele, and Fipa, the human-animal relationship is
reflected in a hierarchy of symbolically significant animals. Each society attributes special
significance to a particular animal that is placed at the apex of the hierarchical pyramid: in the
case of the Nuer, the ox; for the Lele, the pangolin; and for the Fipa, the python. By
comparing the way in which these animals are used symbolically in each society, the
underlying principles are deduced as follows: the Nuer regard the counterposed world of
wild nature, with a sense of distance, as ‘equal’; the Lele, however, depend on the forest and
have a sense of the moral ‘inferiority’ of the village in relation to the forest; the Fipa regard
the village as ‘superior’ to the surrounding bush, and the village has a dominant role in the
surrounding nature. In short, the wild and the civilised are perceived as equal among the
Nuer; the wild is regarded as superior to the civilised among the Lele; and the civilised is
regarded as superior to the wild among the Fipa. These perceptions are reflected in their
evaluation of wild and domesticated animals. The ideas presented in the Akkadian Epic of
Gilgameß can be interpreted in the light of these three models as follows: first, the wild
(Enkidu) is regarded and respected as an equal, as in the case of the Nuer; secondly, at the
same time the domain of the civilised is driven to extend its domination and transforms the
nature of the wild by taming it. The latter mentality, similar to that of the Fipa, can take a
violent form when the wild is not convertible: i.e., Humbaba has to be slain, since he is not
tameable.
In animal symbolism, the integration of Enkidu can be seen in parallel with the
domestication of particular animals: e.g., bulls/cows, sheep, and goats. The violent slaughter
of Humbaba, on the other hand, has its parallel in the hunting of wild animals: e.g., lions,
gazelles, and wild bulls. This dual approach to animals is typically demonstrated in the
Assyrian royal hunt. In the account recorded in the royal inscriptions, the king claims to
have hunted down a certain number of wild animals but also to have seized some animals
alive (e.g., bovine animals and lion cubs) in order to take them back to the capital, where
these animals were kept in the royal garden or ‘zoo’ with the aim of taming them. This
attitude can also be observed in the Assyrian treatment of enemies: when the enemies
surrendered, the Assyrian army tended to spare them as long as they remained loyal to
Assyria, whereas when subordinate countries or cities betrayed or rebelled against Assyria,
the punishment imposed was often extremely severe and violent, as revealed in Assyrian
royal inscriptions and reliefs, which show various scenes of torture, including flaying alive
and bodies impaled on stakes. Enemies were perceived also to have the property attributed to
the bull and the lion: the property of ‘fierceness’ (ekdu), which is also attributed to enemies
referred to in Akkadian texts. Enemies of the Assyrians were located outside their civilised
domain; they were often uncontrollable and a threat, just like wild animals. Thus it was the
154 Conclusion

same motivation that drove the Assyrians to attempt to conquer and extend their ‘civilised’
domination to areas identified as ‘wild’. Neo-Assyrian imperialism can be seen as the
culmination of military government in Mesopotamian history; it followed on and developed
from the policies and tactics of the Middle Assyrian rulers. It may not be appropriate to
generalise this mentality as that of the Semitic nations, but it can be regarded as a
distinguished model, in which militarism flourished in the name of the city god Aßßur, and
military ideology played an essential role in social integration.

§ 4. The relationship between ‘nature’ and humans

Although animals are used to represent the concept of the ‘wild’ in the Akkadian Epic of
Gilgameß, the question arises as to whether they were regarded as a part of the original
‘nature’ that existed before humans came into being. Kirk argued in his study of the nature
of Greek myths that, for the Greeks, ‘nature’ did not include animals, and there was no real
confusion in the Greek mythical world between men and animals.13 ‘Nature’ in this context
referred to the fundamental natural world, in which the elements (such as the sky, sun, air,
and water) were personified and recognised as divine forces in order to provide ‘rational’
explanations for various natural phenomena. Kirk’s point was that, although Greek myths
contain a large number of references to animals (e.g., Zeus turns into a bull and Io into a
cow; Cecrops, the first mythical king of Athens, is a half-serpentine figure; Zeus’ special
bird is the eagle and Athena’s the owl), animals played no crucial role in their creation myths,
in contrast with those in which animals are perceived as once possessing the earth. This
assumption commonly underpins the role of the ‘trickster’, played by the ‘coyote’ or ‘crow’
for the Plains Indians of North America and by the ‘spider’ for numerous West African
tribes. The idea common to these stories is that animals precede humans on earth and
therefore it is a bird or an animal that performs the crucial role, such as lifting up the sky, to
bring wisdom to humans. In addition, these animals have ambivalent features: they are half
human as far as their appearance is concerned, but they sometimes mix with animals, with
which they become almost identical. What Kirk observed in Greek myths can also be
applied to Mesopotamian myths: animals play no significant role in the process of the
creation of the world and how it reached its present state, nor in the creation of man. Among
the Sumerian myths, there are two that refer to the origin of the universe and the creation of
man, translated and entitled by Jacobsen ‘the Eridu Genesis’ and ‘the Birth of Man’.14 The
Eridu Genesis deals with the creation of men and animals, the antediluvian cities and their

13 Kirk 1974, 50-52.


14 Jacobsen 1987, 145-150 (the Eridu Genesis), 151-166 (the Birth of Man).
The relationship between ‘nature’ and humans 155
rulers, and finally the Deluge. The mother goddess Nintur thinks that humankind should be
created in order to build cities and temples, and this is followed by the episode in which the
gods An, Enlil, Enki, and Nin≈ursag are mentioned as fashioning human beings (lit. the
‘dark-headed’):

When An, Enlil, Enki, and Nin≈ursag fashioned the dark-headed,


they had made the small animals (that come up) from (out of) the earth, come from
the earth in abundance
and had let there be, as befits (it), gazelles, (wild) donkeys, and four-footed beasts
in the desert.15

The idea presented in this passage about the early stage of the Sumerian world is that the
divine world preceded the human world, and that it was the gods who decided to create
humans together with domestic animals (the small animals), which were generated from the
earth for ‘abundance’, as well as the wild animals of the ‘desert’. All the deities in the myth
behave like humans, and they are here undoubtedly perceived in personified form. The other
myth, the Birth of Man, deals with the divine world before the creation of man, in which the
gods had to farm for their food and to clean the rivers and canals. Because the heavy labour
weighed on them, the gods were in a rebellious mood and blamed Enki for wantonly
destroying what they accomplished. Enki asks his mother, Namma, to give birth to man in
order to release the gods from this arduous work.
There are two Akkadian myths dealing with a similar theme: ‘Atra ≈as¬s’ and
‘En∑ma eliß’. The account in these myths concerning the origin of man and the world before
the arrival of humans is almost identical in content with that in the Sumerian myths. The
world was originally inhabited by the gods and then man was created in order to relieve the
gods of the work involved in supplying themselves with food and drink. The perception in
these myths contrasts clearly with those of other cultures, in which the world of humans is
regarded as having been preceded by that of animals. It is extremely important to note that
there is no indication at all in either Sumerian or Akkadian myths that animals had a crucial
role in the beginning of the world, or in the birth of humans. Another important point is that
there is nothing in the representation of early deities to suggest that any animal features were
attributed to the gods or to their early ‘non-human’ form. From the mythological point of
view, it is unlikely that any evidence will be found to support the idea of Mesopotamian
deities having originally been perceived in ‘non-human’ form.
In Greek myths, the trickster figures are either men (Sisyphus, Autolycus, and
Odysseus) or anthropomorphic gods (Hermes and Prometheus). On the one hand, the

15 Jacobsen 1987, 146.


156 Conclusion

tricksters are regarded as the culture heroes who brought the arts of living to mankind; on the
other, they disturb the order of society with their cunning tricks. They are thus ambivalent:
both creative and destructive. In the case of Mesopotamian myths, one type of trickster is
exemplified in the mythological role played by Anzu. Anzu acts as a troublemaker by
stealing the Tablet-of-Destinies from Enlil, which causes confusion in the world. Anzu is
half lion and half bird of prey and, although Anzu was once a servant of Enlil, the creature
does not exhibit much in the way of human aspects. In this sense, Anzu may not be a typical
trickster figure like those animals observed in North America and West Africa. Anzu’s role
in the Akkadian myth is rather reduced to that of a destructive force which brings about
chaos in society. Anzu’s function is to be a prey of the heroic god, Ninurta, who re-
establishes the social order by conquering it. Although Anzu does not act on behalf of
humans — e.g., by disclosing wisdom or revealing the arts of living — the creature plays a
key role by causing a crisis, as a result of which the social order is re-established and its
structure reinforced.

§ 5. The role of animals in religious thought operations

In contrast with the stories in which animal tricksters play a role in bringing ‘wisdom’ to
mankind, the Mesopotamians clearly regarded ‘wisdom’ as belonging to culture, to the
human world. In the Akkadian Epic of Gilgameß, for example, Enkidu is endowed with
‘greater understanding’ after he is transformed from a wild into a civilised man, and his
appearance is said to have become ‘god-like’. It is here made clear that the quality of
wisdom is attributed to humans (i.e., the civilised), and animals (i.e., the wild) are regarded
as incapable of exhibiting this quality. According to this perception, the human quality is
subject to the divine quality, which is regarded as superior to the one possessed by humans,
and animals or animal-like tricksters do not possess wisdom they can pass on to mankind.
This suggests that the Mesopotamians, like the later Greeks, envisaged no period in the past
when animals ruled the earth or when animals mixed with humans, but operated a strict
distinction between humans and animals. It is true that many Mesopotamian deities are
associated with particular animals: e.g., the goddess Ißtar with the lion/lioness, the moon god
Sin with the bull, the goddess Gula with the dog, and the storm god Adad with the bull.
However, we must ask what the relationship between the deities and their animals was. In
Mesopotamia, the gods have been represented in anthropomorphic form since the late Uruk
period16 and, although they were identified with animals or composite animals (monsters),
they themselves never took the form of an animal or half animal, but remained

16 E.g., the goddess Inanna possibly represented in a human figure on the Uruk Vase.
Animals in religious thought operations 157
anthropomorphic. Numerous minor deities were, however, exceptions to this rule: they
were categorised as gods, and some monsters were sometimes assigned a divine nature by
marking their names with the divine determinative (ddingir), but the distinction between the
major deities, who were typically associated with particular cities from Sumerian times, and
these minor ones is that the latter never played an important role in the myths. Major deities
were, without exception, envisaged in anthropomorphic form; characteristics of animals
were referred to in order to represent divine characteristics that surpassed those of humans.
Animals are represented together with the gods in art in order to give a concrete form
to the particular nature and function attributed to the gods. In this respect, I agree with
Wiggermann’s view of the monsters: he regarded them as representing particular aspects of
the gods. This can also be applied to the function of divine associated animals in general.
The Mesopotamian stance in their relationship with animals is seen to be distinctive when
their religious system is compared with that of the ancient Egyptians. The Egyptians
worshipped gods almost exclusively in animal shape in the Predynastic period, and in
historical times their gods were represented with distinctive animal features grafted onto
human figures: e.g., the goddess Bastet with the head of a cat, the god Anubis with the head
of a dog, and the goddess Hathor with the head of a cow. A characteristic feature of the
Egyptian perception of animals in the context of their religious belief is that particular animals
were imbued with the spirit of the deity, and were his or her manifestation upon earth.
Certain animals were perceived as possessing divine powers, so that they were worshipped
as divine incarnations. When they died, their bodies were accorded proper ceremonies, kept
as mummies, and buried in the necropolis. The Mesopotamians, on the other hand, although
they adopted animals for their particular characteristics and properties, and used them in
various contexts as symbolic agents in order to express concepts attributed to the gods, never
confused animals with gods, nor worshipped animals. There is no trace of this either in the
myths or in the archaeological evidence.17 The Mesopotamians perceived the human world
as being subject to the divine world, itself a mirror image of human society, in which gods
played the dominant role by taking the form of humans, not that of animals or ‘non-humans’.
In contrast with animal symbols applied to the royal context, in which the properties
of the animals are projected onto a living king in human form, in a divine context the
animals’ function is to explain divine forces that are invisible and manifest themselves
through various phenomena occurring in nature and the human world. When the animals are
referred to in contexts ranging from the warlike to those of storms, from agriculture to
fertility, different properties are highlighted according to the particular divine context.

17 Although a burial of 33 dogs was found at Isin near the temple of Ninisina, these dogs can be assumed to
have served as ‘holy dogs’ at the temple on account of their association with the healing goddess. However,
this should be regarded as an exceptional case, since no similar examples have been found so far. Cf.
Boessneck 1977, 97-110.
158 Conclusion

Depending on the context, some features are emphasised while others are pushed into the
background. For example, when the reference to a lion occurs in a military context,
explaining the heroic deed of a warlike deity, the animal’s aggressive properties are
highlighted in order to correspond to the notions to be associated with the primary subject.
On the other hand, when the reference to a lion occurs in the context of sexual fertility,
representing the divine power that serves as the source of passion, the animal’s extraordinary
mating behaviour is emphasised in response to the qualities prompted by the context. The
animal associations with Mesopotamian deities reveal different patterns of associative
implications, in which a link between a deity and a particular animal is often emphasised.
However, such a link is never fixed as an exclusive relation between the two.
In order to clarify the different patterns of these symbolic relations, it is helpful to
compare a Biblical example with the Mesopotamian pattern of animal symbolism. In patristic
writings, especially those of Jerome and Gregory I, the four writers of the Gospels are
symbolised by four different animals: Matthew by a man, Mark by a lion, Luke by a bull,
and John by an eagle. These symbolic animals derive from a supernatural creature called a
tetramorph (‘four morphs/forms’), described in the Book of Ezekiel as having four faces that
consist of “a human face and a lion’s face on the right, on the left the face of an ox and the
face of an eagle”.18 In Ezekiel’s vision, the creature is described as the likeness of four
living creatures in human form, each having four wings, hoofs like those of a calf, and
human hands under the wings on each of the four sides (Ezekiel 1: 5-14). Elsewhere, in
Revelation, there is a similar description of four creatures in the visions of heaven: “the first
creature was like a lion, the second like an ox, the third had a human face, and the fourth was
like an eagle in flight” (Revelation 4: 7). These creatures are arranged round a throne in
heaven, each of the creatures having six wings, eyes all round and inside, and unceasingly
singing to the glory and honour of God (Revelation 4: 6-9). The creatures described in
Ezekiel and Revelation are slightly different; however, they are both called tetramorph, and
the one in Revelation was probably based on the creatures described in Ezekiel. The four
creatures described in Revelation are interpreted as the symbols of the four Evangelists, and
iconographical representations of these supernatural creatures appear in early Christian art,
though their exact form obviously caused some difficulties. This supernatural creature, the
tetramorph , is used in these sources to praise the glory and honour of God. The
identification of each animal with a Gospel-writer is made without establishing any particular
internal relationship between the animal and the writer, but simply to enhance the glory of
God as represented by the four animals.
A similar vision of the Mesopotamian god Ningirsu appears in Gudea’s dream:
“enormous as the skies, enormous as the earth was he; that one was a god as regards his

18 Ezekiel 1: 10; translation after the Revised English Bible, 1989, Oxford & Cambridge.
Animals in religious thought operations 159
head, he was the Thunderbird as regards his wings, and a floodstorm as regards his lower
body; there was a lion lying on both his left and right side”.19 Each body part of the god
referred to in this vision was selected with the aim of representing a particular divine function
attributed to Ningirsu. For example, both the ‘wings of Thunderbird’ and the ‘lower body of
a floodstorm’ can be seen as representing the god’s responsibility for thunderstorms. The
‘lions’ flanking the deity can be interpreted either as representing the auditory aspects of the
thunderstorms in their ability to roar, or as protecting the god in their role as his guardians.
The appearance of the deity in the vision is, therefore, constructed so that each symbolic
body part represents a specific quality associated with the divine nature of Ningirsu, and it is
integrated into the single unified body of the deity. The system applied to the representation
of Ningirsu is a close parallel to that of composite animals, in which each ‘body part’ is
regarded as conveying different ideas arising from the properties attributed to the specific
animal, and each body part is combined in a single animal body. The characteristic
Mesopotamian use of animals as symbolic agents is observed in the ‘interaction’ of the
animals’ nature and habits with the appropriate context, in which the animal’s original
properties play an important role. This is an important aspect of Mesopotamian animal
symbolism, presenting a clear contrast with the way in which the four emblematic animals
are used in association with the four Gospel-writers. The identification of each animal with
an Evangelist takes no account of the original properties associated with each animal: in
other words, these four animals are randomly assigned to the writers of the Gospels. In this
symbolic system, a semantic interaction between the Gospel-writer and his animal is not
intended; each animal functions as a mere ‘code’ in relation to the original creature, the
tetramorph. The principal concern is the relationship between this creature, singing to the
glory of God, and the four Evangelists, who in their religious devotion praise the glory of
God. However, this interactive mechanism is not observed exclusively in Mesopotamian
symbolic systems. Other examples can be found in Biblical sources: for example, the
comparison of Jesus to the ‘Lamb of God’ has a clear interactive mechanism. These notions
are evoked by the Paschal Lamb in the light of ‘obedience’ to death and by the ‘scapegoat’20
that carries away the sins of the world as the surrogate victim for salvation, which further
relates to the surrogate sufferer identified with Israel. Such ideas, arising from the tradition
of the Old Testament, are projected onto Jesus in order to organise our view of the Son of
God. It can be said, however, that this interactive mechanism is a characteristic of
Mesopotamian symbolic systems from as early as the third millennium B.C., in which the
original properties observed in the nature and behaviour of animals play an important role in
the expression of concepts attributed to divine powers.

19 Gudea Cyl. A, IV 14-19, V 13-16: Edzard 1997, 71-72.


20 The goat was regarded as equal to the sheep for the Passover: Exodus 12: 5.
160 Conclusion

Another characteristic feature of Mesopotamian animal symbolism is the visual


representation of multiple ideas by means of one symbolic entity. Various concepts
attributed to a single symbolic figure are successfully expressed by symbolic agents in the
form of animal body parts belonging to a composite animal. Major Mesopotamian deities
exhibit complex divine functions; in addition, some deities acquire a syncretic nature by
taking over other deities’ divine functions, which makes their theology even more
complicated. For example, the god Aßßur’s integration with the Babylonian god Marduk,
after Sennacherib destroyed Babylon, is expressed by representing Aßßur standing not only
on his own associated animal, the Horned Lion Griffin, but also on muß≈ußßu, the animal
traditionally associated with Marduk. Thus a visual representation of the political integration
is reflected in theology, which presents the idea that Marduk is now absorbed into the
godhead of Aßßur, demonstrating the political conquest of Babylon by Assyria. Another
example is seen in the role of the Horned Lion Griffin in first-millennium Assyrian
iconography. Since this creature was invented as a new divine animal, the creature did not
have any traditional association with a particular deity. The lack of a history made it easy for
the creature to serve various deities: Aßßur, Ninurta, Adad, and Sin. Because the creature
combines the body parts of four different animals, each part representing properties which
derive from its original animal, some features naturally caused the creature to be associated
with specific deities. This is particularly true in its appropriation of the two most common
animals used in the divine context: the lion and the bull. The combination of these two
animals was achieved by attaching the bull’s horns to the head of the lion. The creature
appears in the cylinder-seal representations in which Ninurta pursues Anzu, and it has been
speculated that the creation of the Horned Lion Griffin was the result of an attempt to
represent both Anzu and the Horned Lion Griffin in the same scene, the former as Ninurta’s
enemy and the latter as the god’s attributed animal, developed from his original associated
animal, Anzu. The association of the creature with Sin and Adad can be explained from their
‘bovine’ characteristics, represented by the horns of the animal. Adad, as a storm god, also
incorporates leonine characteristics in his divine function of ‘thunderstorm’, the noise of
which is symbolised by both the roar of the lion and the bellow of the bull. The creature’s
scorpion tail suggests its fertility aspects: these aspects manifest themselves elsewhere in the
scorpion’s association with Iß≈ara, the goddess of sexual fertility and fecundity. They are
also emphasised in the divine function of Sin, and the responsibility of Adad to provide rain
can also be related to the fertility of the land.
The god Aßßur lacks any personal data, such as his genealogy in the pantheon, since
he is the deification of the city of Aßßur. The attribution of the Horned Lion Griffin to the
god Aßßur implies that Aßßur also took over the divine function of Ninurta as the prime
monster-killer — like Marduk, who was deliberately presented as Ninurta redivivus in his
myth En∑ma eliß. On the other hand, the fact that the above deities all share one attributed
Animals in religious thought operations 161
animal implies their own association with the god Aßßur. The gods Ninurta, Sin, and Adad
are all listed as ‘aspects’ of the god Marduk (CT 24, 50 obv.): the Babylonians tended to
present Marduk as the sole possessor of power in the universe, other powers of nature being
integrated into his divine aspects. Since Aßßur explicitly took over Marduk after the
destruction of Babylon, it is likely that all the deities who were originally incorporated into
Marduk, which looks to us like an attempt to establish monotheism, were now perceived as
becoming ‘aspects’ of the new master, Aßßur. The fact that the Assyrians succeeded in
representing such complicated theological ideas and relating them to political events indicates
that they developed a highly sophisticated system of operating their propaganda by means of
animal symbols. Among divine symbols, animals were the only medium used to give visual
form to such concepts and the underlying propaganda. This visual representation enabled the
Assyrians to exhibit their political messages not only to the majority of the population, who
were illiterate, but also to foreigners who did not understand the Assyrian language. Animal
symbols, therefore, operated as a ‘symbolic language’ that functioned far more effectively
than the written form of the language in terms of conveying information, and thus reinforced
the social paradigm by which Assyrian society was structured and defined.
9hh]f\ap2EYhg^O]kl]jf9kaY Y^l]jngfKg\]f)11,$h&*.+!
APPENDIX: Mesopotamian Chronology
This is an outline of archaeological and historical periods, with the approximate dates of the rulers
who are referred to in this work (others are omitted). The chronology is based on Postgate 1992,
p. 22, and Oppenheim 1977, pp. 335-346 (by J.A. Brinkman).

Years BC
5000—4000 Halaf/Ubaid
4000—3200 Uruk
3200—3000 Jemdet Nasr
3000—2750 Early Dynastic I
2750—2600 Early Dynastic II
2600—2350 Early Dynastic III
2550 Mesalim (Kish)
2450 Enanatum I (Lagaß)
Enmetena (Lagaß)
2350—2150 Dynasty of Akkad
2371 Sargon
2291 Naram-Sin
2230 (Gutian interregnum)
Gudea (Lagaß)
2150—2000 Ur III Dynasty
2112—2095 Ur-Nammu
2094—2047 Íulgi
2046—2038 Amar-Sin
2028—2004 Ibbi-Sin
2000 (Amorite interregnum)
2000—1800 Isin-Larsa Dynasties
1953—1935 Ißme-Dagan (Isin)
1934—1924 Lipit-Ißtar (Isin)
1895—1874 Bur-Sin (Isin)
1822—1763 Rim-Sin (Larsa)
1800—1600 First Dynasty of Babylon Mari
1792—1750 Hammurabi Iahdum-Lim
1749—1712 Samsuiluna
1600—1150 Kassite Dynasty
1300—900 Middle Assyrian Period
1305—1274 Adad-nirari I
1243—1207 Tukulti-Ninurta I
1132—1115 Aßßur-r∆ßa-ißi I
1114—1076 Tiglath-pileser I
1073—1056 Aßßur-b∆l-kala
1030—1019 Shalmaneser II
934—912 Aßßur-dan II
911—891 Adad-nirari II
900—625 Neo-Assyrian Period
883—859 Aßßurnaπirpal II
858—824 Shalmaneser III
823—811 Íamßi-Adad V
782—773 Shalmaneser IV
744—727 Tiglath-pileser III
721—705 Sargon II
704—681 Sennacherib
680—669 Esarhaddon
668—627 Aßßurbanipal
165
625—539 Late Babylonian Period
625—605 Nabopolassar
604—562 Nebuchadnezzar II
555—539 Nabonidus
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LIST OF FIGURES

Cover illustration: Lion-hunt relief of Aßßurbanipal, from Room S, North Palace, Nineveh,
ca. 645 BC; photograph taken by the author at the British Museum.
1. Lion-hunt stele from Uruk, Eanna III, alabaster; after PKG 18, fig. 68.
2. Mace head of Mesalim from Girsu, Early Dynastic period; after PKG 18, fig. 78-b.
3. Bronze lance tip from Girsu; after PKG 18, fig. 121a.
4. Inscription on bronze lance tip; after Amiaud, Découvertes en Chaldée , pl. 5 ter, fig. 1-b.
5. Assyrian royal seal, BM 84534; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
6. Assyrian royal seal, SM 2276; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
7. Assyrian royal seal , ND 7104; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
8. Bull-hunt relief of Aßßurnaπirpal II, BM 124532, from Room B, North West Palace, Nimrud,
ca. 865 BC; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
9. Lion-hunt relief of Aßßurnaπirpal II, BM 124534, from Room B, North West Palace, Nimrud,
ca. 865 BC; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
10. Libation scene of Aßßurnaπirpal II (bull), BM 124533, from Room B, North West Palace,
Nimrud, ca. 865 BC; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
11. Libation scene of Aßßurnaπirpal II (lion), BM 124535, from Room B, North West Palace,
Nimrud, ca. 865 BC; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
12. Seal impression, BM 131440, fourth millennium BC, Uruk; reproduced courtesy of the
Trustees of the British Museum.
13. Lion-hunt relief of Aßßurbanipal, from Room C, North Palace, Nineveh, ca. 645 BC;
photograph taken by the author at the British Museum.
14. Citizens of Nineveh climbing up a hill, BM 120861-2, from Room C, North Palace, Nineveh,
ca. 645 BC; photograph taken by the author at the British Museum.
15. Libation scene of Aßßurbanipal, BM 124886, from Room S 1 , North Palace, Nineveh,
ca. 645 BC; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.
16. Drawing of relief representing Ninurta pursuing Anzu, relief excavated at the entrance to the
Ninurta Temple, Nimrud, alabaster relief; after Moortgat-Correns 1988, AfO 35, Abb. 3.
17. Seal impression, Neo-Assyrian period, VA 5180; reproduced courtesy of Vorderasiatisches
Museum, Berlin.
18. Lion-hunt relief of Aßßurbanipal, from Room S, North Palace, Nineveh, ca. 645 BC;
photograph taken by the author at the British Museum.
19. Seal impression, Akkadian period; after Pritchard 1969b , fig. 525.
20. Seal impression, Akkadian period; after Porada 1948, fig. 220.
21. Seal impression, BM 89089, Akkadian period; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of the
British Museum.
22. Seal impression, BM 89521, Old Babylonian period; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of
the British Museum.
23. Seal impression, BM 132257, Neo-Assyrian period; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of
the British Museum.
24. Bull’s horns set on a bench, Çatal Höyük; after Mellaart 1967, 42, pl. 16.
25. Steatite bowl from Ur, late fourth millennium BC; after PKG 18, fig. 71-a.
26. Seal impression, late fourth millennium BC; after Strommenger 1964, fig. 16.
27. Seal impression, BM 89284, Old Babylonian period; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of
the British Museum.
28. Seal impression, Akkadian period; after Boehmer 1965, fig. 437.
29. Wall painting from Mari, Old Babylonian period; after PKG 18, fig. 188-b.
30. Lion heads from Lagaß, ca. 2150 BC; after Parrot 1948, pl. 42-k, l, m.
31. Lion statue from Eridu, late fourth millennium BC; after Safar 1981, fig. 121.
32. Lion head from al-‘Ubaid, BM 117918, ca. 2450 BC; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of
the British Museum.
33. Lion statue from Nimrud, BM 118895, 9th century BC; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees
of the British Museum.
176
34. Lion statue from Tell Ahmar, 9th century BC; after Bunnens 1991, fig. 6.
35. Bull statue from al-‘Ubaid, BM 116740, ca. 2450 BC; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of
the British Museum.
36. Bull figure in relief from al-‘Ubaid, ca. 2450 BC; after Hall, et al., 1927, pl. XXIX-3.
37. Clay dog figurines from North palace, BM 30001-5, Nineveh; reproduced courtesy of the
Trustees of the British Museum.
38. Muß≈ußßu in glazed bricks from Babylon, 605-562 BC; after Strommenger 1964,
fig. 277 (top).
39. Bull in glazed bricks from Babylon, 605-562 BC; after Strommenger 1964, fig. 277 (bottom).
40. Lion in glazed bricks from Babylon, 605-562 BC; after PKG 18, pl. XXIV.
41. Lion, bird of prey, bull, tree, and plough in glazed bricks from Khorsabad, 721-705 BC;
after Loud 1936, fig. 104.
42. Memorial stone of Esarhaddon, WA 91027, 680-669 BC; reproduced courtesy of the
Trustees of the British Museum.
43. Impression on the end of prism, WA 78223; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of the
British Museum.
44. Seal impression, fourth millennium BC, Uruk; after Brandes 1979, Tafel 12.
45. Anzu in lapis lazuli from Tell Brak; after R. Matthews 1994, fig. 7.
46. Plaque of Dudu, Early Dynastic period, Girsu; after PKG 18, fig. 88.
47. Silver vase of Enmetena, Early Dynastic period, Girsu; after Amiaud, Découvertes en
Chaldée , pl. 43.
48. Incised shell plaque, late Early Dynastic period, Girsu; after Parrot 1948, fig. 113-m.
49. Seal impression, BM 116719, Ur III period; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of the
British Museum.
50. Seal impression, Ur III period; after Porada 1948, fig. 268.
51. Seal impression, BM 89807, Old Babylonian period; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of
the British Museum.
52. Seal impression, Old Babylonian period; after Porada 1948, fig. 362.
53. Seal impression, BM 89360, Old Babylonian period; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of
the British Museum.
54. Seal impression, Middle Assyrian period; after Porada 1948, fig. 607.
55. Seal impression, Middle Assyrian period; after Porada 1948, fig. 598.
56. Seal impression, Neo-Assyrian period; after Porada 1948, fig. 689.
57. Seal impression, Neo-Assyrian period; after Muscarella 1981, fig. 88.
58. Seal impression, Neo-Assyrian period; after Porada 1948, fig. 691.
59. Seal impression, BM 105111, Neo-Assyrian period; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of
the British Museum.
60. Lapis lazuli cylinder, Neo-Babylonian period; after PKG 18, 362, fig. 108b.
61. Maltai relief II (the sixth deity in procession: Adad), Neo-Assyrian period; after
Boehmer 1976, Abb. 55.
62. Maltai relief II (Horned Lion Griffin and bull), Neo-Assyrian period; after Boehmer 1976,
Abb. 54.
63. Seal impression, Neo-Assyrian period; after Moortgat-Correns 1988, AfO 35, Abb. 5.
64. Stone relief from Aßßur, VA 8750; reproduced courtesy of Vorderasiatisches Museum,
Berlin.
65. Maltai relief II ( muß≈ußßu and Horned Lion Griffin), Neo-Assyrian period; after Boehmer
1976, Abb. 48.
66. Seal impression on vassal treaties of Tukulti-Ninurta I (drawing), Middle Assyrian period;
after Wiseman 1958, Iraq 20, fig. 6.
67. Lion-hunt relief of Aßßurbanipal, from Room C, North Palace, Nineveh, ca. 645 BC;
photograph taken by the author at the British Museum.
68. Lion-hunt relief of Aßßurbanipal, from Room C, North Palace, Nineveh, ca. 645 BC;
photograph taken by the author at the British Museum.
69. Seal impression, BM 89140, first millennium BC; reproduced courtesy of the Trustees of the
British Museum.
177
70. Seal impression, VA 4215, first millennium BC; reproduced courtesy of Vorderasiatisches
Museum, Berlin.

We have made every effort to trace the copyright holders of all the photographs above, but in
a very few cases we were unable to do so. Anyone concerned is invited to contact the
publisher. I would like to thank all those who have helped in this task of tracing copyright
holders.
FIGURES
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Fig. 12 Seal impression

Fig. 13 Lion-hunt relief of A$$urbanipal


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Fig. 59 Seal impression

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