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On the Fish-Apkallu

Fish Apkallu

“Lamaštu amulets:

The fish-apkallū on Lamaštu amulet 2 (and 4?), exactly like the ūmu-apkallū on Lamaštu amulets 3 and 61, has his left hand on the bed of the sick man. The right hand is slightly damaged, but probably greeting.

Fish-Apkallu statuettes of the type that were buried in the foundations of buildings.

Fish-Apkallu statuettes of the type that were buried in the foundations of buildings. It is difficult to tell whether they hold their hands in a prayerful position or hold something indistinct. 

Wrong hand:

Occasionally apkallū are attested holding the bucket in their right hand: AfO 28 57f. 30 (above IIiI/6), Lamaštu amulet 5 (?), Calmeyer Reliefbronzen 66 H:8 (bird-apkallū).

Unidentified object:

One of the apkallū on CANES 773 holds in his right hand an unidentified feather-like object.

Identification:

The identification of the fish-apkallū of ritual I/IiI with the “fish-garbed” man goes back to Smith JRAS 1926 709 (based on comparison with the Kleinplastik from Ur); identification of one of them with Oannes has been proposed since the early days of Assyriology (Kolbe Reliefprogramme 26, Zimmern KAT 535ff., ZA 35 151ff.) but was proved only after the names of the sages in Berossos’ Babyloniaka were recognized in cuneiform (van Dijk UVB 18 46ff.).

Occasionally the apkallū is mistakenly identified with the fish-man / kulullû (see below, VII.C.9), a completely different figure. U4 – a n (Oannes) and Adapa, a human sage living approximately at the same time, are probably two different figures (Borger JNES 33186, Picchioni Adapa 97ff.).

A "fish-man" / kulullû is depicted at left, and a fish-apkallū at right.  Wiggermann distinguishes these two entities.

A “fish-man” / kulullû is depicted at left, and a fish-apkallū at right.
Wiggermann distinguishes these two entities.

The texts clearly indicate that the fish-apkallū are not fish-garbed priests, but mythological figures, man and fish; they are bīnūt apsî, “creatures of apsû“, in ritual I/IIi, purād tāmtiša ina nāri ibbanú, “carp of the sea…who were grown in the river” in text IIiI.B.8 (cf. also Cagni Erra, I 162), and Berossos clearly describes them as a mixture of fish and man (cf. S. Mayer Burstein SANE I/5 13, 19).

Their names lack the determinative DINGIR, they are no gods, and the horns on the head of the fish (on palace reliefs, not on seals, cf. Kleinplastik 89, FuB 10 35) probably developed from its gills.

Berossos calls them “hemidaimones” (Jacoby FGrH 400).

Fish-Apkallū depicted on a cistern. The fish iconography is unmistakable, as are the banduddu buckets in their left hands. Objects in their right hands are indistinct, but the traditional gestures of warding or blessing seem clear.

Fish-Apkallū depicted on a cistern. The fish iconography is unmistakable, as are the banduddu buckets in their left hands. Objects in their right hands are indistinct, but the traditional gestures of warding or blessing seem clear. The objects in their right hands may be the “angular objects” mentioned in the table by Wiggermann at the top of the page. 

History.

In the third millennium a b g al is the name of a profession: see MSL 12 10:15, ZA 72 174 11 v 3, Bauer AWL 125 i 4 (NUN.ME.KA X ME/GANA2f, cf. also Barton MBI 2 iv 2), Ukg. 6 ii 30′, iii 4 (NUN.ME.KA X ME/GANA2f.) UET 8 33:15 and for the same profession in the divine world: TCL 15 10:98 (dA b g a l) cf. 85.

In OB sum. incantations a b g a l apparently refers to a mythological sage at the court of Enki: VAS 17 13:5 (together with Enkum, Ninkum, and the seven children of Apsû), 16:11, 32:21, HSAO 262:56, PBS I/2 123:9 IIIISET 1 217 Ni 4176:12, OrNS 44 68, cf. ASKT 12 Obv. 11ff.

The “seven apkallū of Eridu“, at least in AnSt 30 78 (SB) identified with the seven antediluvian sages (Anenlilda is among them), are rooted in the third millenium (TCS 3 25:139, cf. Benito “Enki and Ninmah” and “Enki and the World Order” 91:105, and for later attestations JCS 21 11 25+a, Maqlû II 124, V 110 = AfO 21 77, VII 49, VIII 38).

The names of the seven antediluvian sages are certainly not as old as the names of the antediluvian kings: they seem to be derived partly from the titles of literary works (Hallo JAOS 83 175f.), and partly from the names of the antediluvian kings.

The element en-me-(e n) (and a m – m e, a m – i etc.) = e m e n (me —en) (cf. Finkelstein JCS 17 42, Wilcke Lugalbanda 41), “lord”, in the names of the kings has been reinterpreted as “the lord (e n) who makes good (d u 10 – g a)/ perfects (g a l a m) / refines (b ùl u g -g á) the regulations (m e)”.

Although the resulting names are good Sumerian (Lambert JCS 16 74), the consistent difference is telling. The Sumerian of the linguistically rather simple bilingual incantation to the fish-apkallū in bīt mēseri (III.B.8) could well be of MB date, and the Kassite seals with representations of the fish-apkallū prove that at this time the later views existed at least partially.

These undatable later views connect the named carp apkallū with canonized literature (Lambert JCS 16 59ff., Hallo JAOS 83 175f., van Dijk-Mayer BaMB 2 no 90) and have possibly been developed concomittantly.

Literature on the apkallū types :

Below text III.B.8, 9, 10, 11; Borger JNES 33 183ff., Foster OrNS 43 344ff., Komoróczy ActAntHung 21 135ff., 142ff., S. Mayer Burstein SANE 1/5 13ff., Kawami Iran 10 146ff., van Dijk UVB 18 43ff., all with many references to previous literature.”

F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, p. 76-7.

Things that Apkallu Hold

” … we present a survey of the objects in the hands of apkallū on reliefs, seals, and in the Kleinplastik. The survey is not meant to be complete. It is based on the recent treatments of Rittig (Kleinplastik), Kolbe (Reliefprogramme), and Reade (BaM 10 17ff.).

Umu-Apkallu Anthropomorphic and Winged

Lamaštu amulets:

Occasionally on Lamaštu amulets (2, 3, 5, 20 ?, 29′, 37 61) a figure wearing a shawl covering the legs, once clearly with headband (3, cf. the description RA 18 176), appears at the head or feet of the bed of the sick man, together with fish-apkallū (2, 5, 37) or alone (3, 61).

His right hands greets (2′, 3?, 5′, 61?) or holds an angular object, his left hand is placed on the bed (3, 61), on a censer (3, cf. Wiggermann apud Stol Zwangerschap en Geboorte 111) or holds a square object (37) or the bucket. He is never winged.

Frank LSS-III/3 who considered the fish-apkallū a dressed up priest, thought the second figure at the bed to be an assistant priest. Today we no longer view the fish-apkallū as priests, and accordingly the men at the bed are assistant apkallū rather than assistant priests. The “men” are clearly involved in activities similar to those of the fish-apkallū, and the texts prescribing the visual representations of beneficial supernatural powers do not offer another candidate for the identification of this apkallū-like figure than the ūmuapkallū.

Bird Apkallu and Fish Apkallu, side by side. Apkallu statuettes of this design were buried in appropriate places in the home of a Babylonian exorcist. They were believed to have prophylactic qualities, guarding the home from evil.

Bird Apkallu and Fish Apkallu, side by side. Apkallu statuettes of this design were buried in appropriate places in the home of a Babylonian exorcist. They were believed to have prophylactic qualities, guarding the home from evil.

Identification of ūmu-apkallū on reliefs:

The description and incantation of the ūmu-apkallū make it clear that they are anthropomorphic figures of human descent; the material they are made of also distinguishes them from the gods and the monsters and apkallū of non-human lineage.

That the horns of divinity are lacking in the description then is not a coincidence (as it is in the case of the il bīti). On amulets, in a context clearly defined by the bed of the sick man and the presence of fish-apkallū, only one figure is available for identification with the ûmu-apkallū (see above); this figure serves as a check on any identification of the ūmu-apkallū in the less clear context of the palace reliefs.

Umu-Apkallu, with right hand raised in greeting. The banduddu bucket is in the left hand. Later analysts focus on the rosette patterns on the headdress and bracelets of um-apkallu, and their earrings.

Umu-Apkallu, with right hand raised in greeting. The banduddu bucket is in the left hand. Later analysts focus on the rosette patterns on the headdress and bracelets of um-apkallu, and their earrings.

There is no reason why the ūmu-apkallū must appear on reliefs; the text quoted by Reade BaM 10 38i27 may have belonged to fish- or bird-apkallū (text I/7). However, the apparent bearing of our rituals on the apotropaic subject-matter of the reliefs, and more specifically the presence of the bird- and fish-apkallū, leads us to expect them.

Although ritual I/II prescribes specific attributes for each type of apkallū, the actual fish- and bird-apkallū of the Kleinplastik show that this specificity is a forced choice between a number of more or less equivalent attributes; we must not expect the ūmu-apkallū to have held only the object denoted by e’ru, whatever it is; the ūmu-apkallū of the Lamaštu amulets confirm this point.

This well-preserved bas relief retains incredible detail. The daggers carried in the Umu-Apkallu's waistband are clear, as is the rosette styling on his wristbands. The earrings are more distinct than most other examples, and the headdress appears to be of the horned-tiara type. The umu-apkallu appears to wear bracelets on his upper arms. Tassels are apparent on the fringes of his robe, as well as behind the neck.

This well-preserved bas relief retains incredible detail. The daggers carried in the Umu-Apkallu’s waistband are clear, as is the rosette styling on his wristbands. The earrings are more distinct than most other examples, and the headdress appears to be of the horned-tiara type. The umu-apkallu appears to wear bracelets on his upper arms. Tassels are apparent on the fringes of his robe, as well as behind the neck.

The banduddû, identified with certainty with the bucket, thus isolates two groups with anthropomorphic members: the (winged) figures with headband and the (winged) figures with horned tiara (we will return to them below). The other attributes of the members of both groups can be made to match the attributes of the apkallū known from the texts; the horned figures, however, must be gods, and since the apkallū are no gods, the figures with the headband should be the apkallū (so Reade BaM 10 37; differently Kolbe Reliefprogramme 14ff., cf. 41f. 47, 50).

The banduddu buckets are discernible in the left hands of these bird-apkallu statuettes.

The banduddu buckets are discernible in the left hands of these bird-apkallu statuettes.

The ūmu-apkallū of the Lamaštu-amulets confirms this identification: decisive is the headband defining this type of supernatural beings (this band with daisy-like flowers differs from the diadem with two strips of cloth pendant behind, worn by the king or the crown-prince, cf. Reade Iraq 29 46, Iraq 34 92f.).

Unfortunately the headgear of the ūmu-apkallū is described only as agê ramāni-šunu, “crowns (cut out) of their own (wood)”; agû denotes a variety of functionally similar divine or royal headgears (CAD A/1 157a).

The different dress of the apkallū of the Lamaštu amulets cannot be adduced against identification with the apkallū of the reliefs; differences in dress are attested for the bird-apkallū as well, cf. Kolbe Reliefprogramme Pl. IV/1 and 2, Iraq 33 Pl. XiVe, Rittig Kleinplastik Fig. 20ff.; ūmu-apkallū with a shawl covering the legs appear on seals (VAR 675, probably CANES 705).”

F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts, STYX&PP Publications, Groningen, 1992, p. 73-4.

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