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Tag: Nisroch

Selz: Connects the Apkallu with the Fallen Angels

“The correspondance between Enmeduranki, for a long time considered to be the Mesopotamian Enoch, with an apkallū named Utu-abzu, proved highly informative.

(See W.G. Lambert, “Enmeduranki and Related Matters,” JCS 21 (1967): pp. 126-38; idem, “New Fragment.”)

Paul Gustave Doré (1832-1883 CE), Michael Casts out all of the Fallen Angels, Illustration for Milton's Paradise Lost, 1866.<br />  This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason:<br />  This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 100 years or less. <br /> https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Doré

Paul Gustave Doré (1832-1883 CE), Michael Casts out all of the Fallen Angels, Illustration for Milton’s Paradise Lost, 1866.
This is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The work of art itself is in the public domain for the following reason:
This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or less.
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Gustave_Doré

In 1974 Borger observed in an important article, that in tablet III of the omen series Bīt Mēseri (“House of Confinement”) a list of these apkallū is provided and that the apkallū Utu-abzu who is, as we have just seen, associated with the primeval ruler Enmeduranki is explicitly said to have “ascended to heaven.”

(“Beschwörung. U-anna, der die Pläne des Himmels und der Erde vollendet, U-anne-dugga, dem ein umfassender Verstand verliehen ist, Enmedugga, dem ein gutes Geschick beschieden ist, Enmegalamma, der in einem Hause geboren wurde, Enmebu-lugga, der auf einem Weidegrund aufwuchs, An-Enlilda, der Beschwörer der Stadt Eridu,” Utuabzu, der zum Himmel emporgestiegen ist, . . . ” (Borger, “Beschwörungsserie,” p. 192).

(“Summons. U -anna, completes the plans of the heavens and the earth, U-anne-dugga, accompanied by a comprehensive understanding, Enmedugga, who is granted good skill, Enmegalamma, who was born in a house, Enmebu-lugga, who grew up on a pasture, An-Enlilda, the Summoner of the city Eridu.”)

In Borger’s words we can therefore say: “The mythological conception of Enoch’s ascension to heaven derives . . . from Enmeduranki’s counselor, the seventh antediluvian sage, named Utuabzu!”

(Borger, “Incantation Series,” p. 232.)

Purādu-fish apkallū were antediluvian sages, the famous Seven Sages of Sumeria were purādu-fish.  The genotype is also attested in Berossus, as the form of the mentor of mankind, Oannes.

Purādu-fish apkallū were antediluvian sages, the famous Seven Sages of Sumeria were purādu-fish.
The genotype is also attested in Berossus, as the form of the mentor of mankind, Oannes.

The iconographic evidence for these apkallū is manifold and best known from various Assyrian reliefs. We usually refer to them as genii. Bīt Mēseri, however, describes them as purādu-fishes, and this coincides with iconographic research undertaken by Wiggerman some twenty years ago in his study on Mesopotamian Protective Spirits.

(F.A.M. Wiggermann, Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts (Cuneiform Monographs 1; Groningen: Styx, 1992).

The three types of apkallū are portrayed, with the human ummânū at far left, the Nisroch bird-apkallū type in the middle, and the antediluvian purādu-fish type at far right.  The human ummânū is attested in the Uruk List of Kings and Sages, while other references to bird-apkallū are legion, as documented in Wiggermann and other authorities.  The purādu-fish apkallū is principally attested in Berossus, though other authorities confirm them, as well.  The anthropomorphic qualities of the purādu-fish and the Nisroch apkallū remain unexplained, though the eagle is sacred to Enki / Ea.

The three types of apkallū are portrayed, with the human ummânū at far left, the Nisroch bird-apkallū type in the middle, and the antediluvian purādu-fish type at far right.
The human ummânū is attested in the Uruk List of Kings and Sages, while other references to bird-apkallū are legion, as documented in Wiggermann and other authorities.
The purādu-fish apkallū is principally attested in Berossus, though other authorities confirm them, as well.
The anthropomorphic qualities of the purādu-fish and the Nisroch apkallū remain unexplained, though the eagle is sacred to Enki / Ea.

Wiggerman could distinguish between basically three types of genii, attested in the Mesopotamian art: First, there is a human faced genius, second, a bird apkallū who occur only in “Assyrian” contexts, and third, a fish apkallū, the original Babylonian apkallū, as described by Berossos; according to the texts the last two groups of apkallū are coming in groups of seven.

The first type, the human faced genius must be kept apart because these genii are depicted wearing a horned crown which explicitly marks them as divine.

An ummânu, or sage of human descent. The ummânu raises his right hand in the iconic gesture of greeting, with uncertain plants in his left hand. Note the rosette design on his wristband, and the horned tiara headdress, indicative of divinity. 

Such human apkallū are invariably portrayed with wings.

An ummânu, or sage of human descent. The ummânu raises his right hand in the iconic gesture of greeting, with what appear to be poppy bulbs in his left hand. Note the rosette design on his wristband, and the horned tiara headdress, indicative of divinity. 

Such human apkallū are invariably portrayed with wings, a further indicator of divinity or semi-divinity.

I cannot dwell here on the complicated issue of a possible intertextual relation between these apkallū and the “fallen angels” of the biblical tradition. Instead I will add some remarks concerning the following feature of the Enochic tradition, especially the Book of Giants.

1 Enoch 6:1-3 gives account of the siring of giants; men had multiplied and the watchers, the sons of heaven, saw their beautiful daughters and desired them.

Therefore, “they said to one another, ‘Come, let us choose for ourselves wives from the daughters of men, and let us beget children for ourselves.’

And Shemihazah, their chief, said to them, ‘I fear that you will not want to do this deed, and I alone shall be guilty of a great sin.’”

1 Enoch 7:1-2 describes that the women conceived from them and “bore to them great giants. And the giants begot Nephilim, and to the Nephilim were born . . . And they were growing in accordance with their greatness.”

Gebhard J. Selz, “Of Heroes and Sages–Considerations of the Early Mesopotamian Background of Some Enochic Traditions,” in Armin Lange, et alThe Dead Sea Scrolls in Context, v. 2, Brill, 2011, pp. 794-5.

Dalley: Apkallu-5, IDD 2011

Iconography of Deities and Demons (IDD).

Apkallu (continued). 

Type 3 Bird-of-Prey-Headed Apkallu, Phenotypes. 

“This hybrid sage (7, 21, 36*, 39*, 67–80), also called griffin-demon, Nisroch, or simply genie, is a human body with the head of a bird of prey (perhaps an eagle or a vulture).

Apkallu type 3, illustration 36, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> The bird-headed type 3 Nisroc apkallu is on the right, with banduddu bucket in the left hand and an indistinct item in his raised right hand.<br /> The figure on the left lacks wings, though it mimics the blessing gesture and the banduddu bucket of the right-side apkallu. The left side figure may not be an apkallu at all. Perhaps it is a priest. Or a human umu-apkallu. It lacks all symbols of divinity or semi-divinity.<br /> The central figure is problematic for me, wearing a crown which reminds me of a depiction of the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists aver that no representations of Anu exist.<br /> Like a bronze artifact depicted on other pages, this one wears a large ring around the torso. This figure also holds a ring in his left hand, or several loops of beads that resemble prayer beads, raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting. I will discuss the question of the identity of this deity below.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 36, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
The bird-headed type 3 Nisroc apkallu is on the right, with banduddu bucket in the left hand and an indistinct item in his raised right hand.
The figure on the left lacks wings, though it mimics the blessing gesture and the banduddu bucket of the right-side apkallu. The left side figure may not be an apkallu at all. Perhaps it is a priest. Or a human umu-apkallu. It lacks all symbols of divinity or semi-divinity.
The central figure is problematic for me, wearing a crown which reminds me of a depiction of the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists aver that no representations of Anu exist.
Like a bronze artifact depicted on other pages, this one wears a large ring around the torso. This figure also holds a ring in his left hand, or several loops of beads that resemble prayer beads, raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting. I will discuss the question of the identity of this deity below.

It usually appears with one or two wings, each perhaps representing a pair of wings; but also with four (80). Like type 1, a pair of mirror-image figures is frequently shown, e.g., on 39*.

Apkallu type 1, illustration 39, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Dalley cites this illustration as an example of mirror imaging.<br /> More interesting to me is the fact that the small apkallu depicted in the upper right side of this illustration is wearing a headband rather than the horned tiara seen on the others. This umu-apkallu also holds a sprig of what appear to be poppy bulbs.<br /> In all other respects, the apkallu portrayed on this large wall frieze are typical of the type, except that the detailing of their tassels is exceptionally fine.<br /> As usual, they bless or exorcise the sacred tree at the center of the design with the mullilu cone, banduddu buckets in their left hands.<br /> I must note that unless the real life models depicted in these illustrations and friezes wore a total of four daggers and two whetstones tucked into their waistbands, with two daggers and one whetstone on each side, the original illustrators considered it crucial to portray them. Daggers and whetstones are represented whether the figures are facing left or right.

Apkallu type 1, illustration 39, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Dalley cites this illustration as an example of mirror imaging.
More interesting to me is the fact that the small apkallu depicted in the upper right side of this illustration is wearing a headband rather than the horned tiara seen on the others. This umu-apkallu also holds a sprig of what appear to be poppy bulbs.
In all other respects, the apkallu portrayed on this large wall frieze are typical of the type, except that the detailing of their tassels is exceptionally fine.
As usual, they bless or exorcise the sacred tree at the center of the design with the mullilu cone, banduddu buckets in their left hands.
I must note that unless the real life models depicted in these illustrations and friezes wore a total of four daggers and two whetstones tucked into their waistbands, with two daggers and one whetstone on each side, the original illustrators considered it crucial to portray them. Daggers and whetstones are represented whether the figures are facing left or right.

Some examples show the bird-of-prey-headed Apkallu with a long, high crest as on 76*, which has two ringlets falling on to the shoulder.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 76, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Stephanie Dalley cites illustration 76 as an exemplar

Apkallu type 3, illustration 76, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Stephanie Dalley cites illustration 76 as an exemplar “with a long, high crest … with two ringlets falling to the shoulder,” which it indeed does portray.
She also writes, “For jewelry the figure may wear a necklace with seven strands (76*), which may also only be single-stranded with pendants. With my apologies to the professor, I detect no necklace or pendants on this illustration.
This illustration does depict a type 3 Nisroc apkallu in the apparent act of uttering a cry, with a visible tongue, though Professor Dalley does not cite it as an example of that.
Finally, she asserts the “so-called “fish-tail fringe” dangling from the kilt (76*) is not a fish part, and so does not indicate that the type is a fish composite.” With this statement, I am in utter agreement.
This particular illustration, its find site unknown to me, is atypical in other respects. The portrayal of the avian head is perhaps unique, and at variance with the typical versions from the palace walls of the Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud, for example.
The lone curl at the top of the head is unique, I think, as are the curls which Professor Dalley identified above.
In no other example does a nisroc-bird apkallu stand in front of a sacred tree, occluding it from view.
The armlet on this apkallu is unusual, as well, with a design that I have not seen elsewhere.
In all other respects, this depiction of a type 3 bird-headed apkallu is typical, with mullilu cone and banduddu bucket in their customary places.

On other examples there are three curls on top of the head (71*–72, 74, 78*–79).

Apkallu type 3, illustration 71, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Professor Dalley cites illustration 71 as an example where a nisroc bird-headed apkallu holds a sprig in the raised right hand.<br /> I believe that she also cites it as an example with three curls atop its head. This assertion is problematic, as the middle

Apkallu type 3, illustration 71, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Professor Dalley cites illustration 71 as an example where a nisroc bird-headed apkallu holds a sprig in the raised right hand.
I believe that she also cites it as an example with three curls atop its head. This assertion is problematic, as the middle “curl,” is surmounted by a circle.
Other anomalies abound with this illustration, which depicts a type 3 avian-headed apkallu atypically nude, with an absence of detail on the body.
The banduddu bucket, however, is in its typical place, in the lowered left hand.
The other elements of this illustration will be discussed another time. Several deserve explication, from the identities of the portrayed figures, to the atypical depiction of the sacred tree.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 78, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Professor Dalley states that this illustration portrays a bird-headed type 3 apkallu with a plant, which I regretfully do not see. The hand on this illustration is broken off, so whatever was held in the hand is unknown. The hand in fact appears to be in the prototypical gesture of blessing with a mullilu cone in hand, though we cannot be certain. Professor Dalley also states that the

Apkallu type 3, illustration 78, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Professor Dalley states that this illustration portrays a bird-headed type 3 apkallu with a plant, which I regretfully do not see. The hand on this illustration is broken off, so whatever was held in the hand is unknown. The hand in fact appears to be in the prototypical gesture of blessing with a mullilu cone in hand, though we cannot be certain. Professor Dalley also states that the “figure appears to pluck a bud or sprig from the sacred tree.” Perhaps.
This illustration, number 78 from IDD, is remarkable for other reasons. For one, the ringlets terminating in a curl at the side of its head are unusual, and the neck area appears to reflect the lone attempt to portray a beard on a bird-headed apkallu in all Assyrian iconography.
This apkallu wears a fringed kilt, but in all other respects it is indicative of the two-winged bird-headed apkallu, with banduddu bucket in the lowered left hand.

For jewelry the figure may wear a necklace with seven strands (76*), which may also only be single-stranded with pendants (7). Rosette bracelets are sometimes shown on each wrist (67).

This detail of an umu-apkallu from Panel 12, Room G, Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud focuses on the rosette design of his bracelets. Note that in this example the bracelets are not matching. In the upper version, the rosette is mounted on a bracelet with no border. On the example below, the rosette design is circled by a border. The number of petals on the design varies, as well, with eleven petals above and 13 below, by my count. Armlets at the elbow are clearly visible, as is the fine detailing on the whetstone and the dual daggers in the waistband. London, British Museum, ANE 124568. From Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 109. Photograph by Professor Atac.

This detail of an umu-apkallu from Panel 12, Room G, Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud focuses on the rosette design of his bracelets.
Note that in this example the bracelets are not matching. In the upper version, the rosette is mounted on a bracelet with no border.
On the example below, the rosette design is circled by a border. The number of petals on the design varies, as well, with eleven petals above and 13 below, by my count.
Armlets at the elbow are clearly visible, as is the fine detailing on the whetstone and the dual daggers in the waistband.
London, British Museum, ANE 124568.
From Mehmet-Ali Atac, The Mythology of Kingship in Neo-Assyrian Art, Cambridge University Press, 2010, p. 109. Photograph by Professor Atac.

The beak is usually closed, but occasionally open to show the tongue (74, 78*–79), as if emitting a cry (80 ). On Late Bronze/Early Iron Age seals the figure is often shown naked (33* – 34*, 47 – 48, 72, 74); at later periods the dress is similar to that of the anthropomorphic sage and the fish-cloak Apkallu on most examples, although the knees are entirely covered by the over-garment on 77.

The so-called “fish-tail fringe” dangling from the kilt (76* above) is not a fish part, and so does not indicate that the type is a fish composite. WIGGERMANN (1992: 75) considers that this type belongs to an Assyrian tradition, and regards all late 2nd millennium examples as Middle Assyrian.

Other deviations from the standard representation include the replacement of the cone in the right hand with a sprig as on 71*. The pose of having both hands raised without holding any object (77) is also unusual. The figure appears to pluck a bud or sprig from the sacred tree on 75*, 78*, and 79.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 75, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> This illustration, number 75, is unique in portraying a type 3 avian-headed apkallu harvesting a leaf or a cone from the sacred tree.<br /> The apkallu goes so far as to plant his left leg against the tree for leverage.<br /> This bird-apkallu is significant for his lone curl at the forehead, and for the emphasis placed on the tassels of his garment.<br /> It should also be observed that this portrayal of the sacred tree depicts leaves, which is unusual.<br /> I also cannot escape the nagging impression that the tree appears to blossom from a vase, with symbology evocative of the fleur-de-lis.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 75, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
This illustration, number 75, is unique in portraying a type 3 avian-headed apkallu harvesting a leaf or a cone from the sacred tree.
The apkallu goes so far as to plant his left leg against the tree for leverage.
This bird-apkallu is significant for his lone curl at the forehead, and for the emphasis placed on the tassels of his garment.
It should also be observed that this portrayal of the sacred tree depicts leaves, which is unusual.
I also cannot escape the nagging impression that the tree appears to blossom from a vase, with symbology evocative of the fleur-de-lis.

Associations.

A pair of bird-of-prey-headed Apkallus often stands on each side of a sacred tree (7 ) or a royal figure (69 ), or with a plant (78*–79) or a deity (36*, 70 , 74 ), with six-curl heroes holding the sacred tree (71* ).

Apkallu type 3, illustration 36, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.<br /> Professor Dalley cites this illustration, number 36, for the type 1 and type 3 apkallu standing at the flanks of a deity. In the first case, it is far from certain that the figure on the left of the central deity is an apkallu at all, as it lacks all indicators of divinity and most crucially, wings. This figure does raise what appears to be a mullilu cone in its right hand, and it does hold the usual banduddu bucket in his left hand, though it must be admitted that depictions of cones with leaves still attached are irregular.<br /> Unfortunately Professor Dalley does not identify the deity in the center of the illustration, though I am encouraged that she does consider it to be a deity, rather than an apkallu of high rank, which deity I will provisionally attempt to name.<br /> I have discussed elsewhere in captions to these illustrations the possibility that the deity at the center of this composition, which appears to adorn a necklace or breastplate, is the god Anu, who is allegedly never depicted in Mesopotamian iconography.<br /> The circular device at the apex of his crown, which is appropriately horned, is apparent in only one other example that I can call to mind, a bronze face protector or frontal helmet depicted on other pages.<br /> In that example, the circular device or disc is so worn that the lower portion of its mount mimics the inverted crescent of the Moon god Sin.<br /> The context is inappropriate for Sin, however, and in no other case have I ever seen anything positioned between the upturned horns of Sin's inverted crescent. It is more likely that the disc mount is simply worn from great age, with the circular portion along the top gone.<br /> In any case, a bird-headed type 3 Nisroc apkallu is on the right, with banduddu bucket in the left hand and an indistinct item in his raised right hand. It appears to be a mullilu cone, but with leaves or sprouting, as noted.<br /> As mentioned, the figure on the left side of the deity lacks wings, though it mimics the blessing gesture, cone and banduddu bucket of the right-side apkallu. The left side figure may not be an apkallu at all. Perhaps it is a priest. Or a human umu-apkallu. It lacks all symbols of divinity or semi-divinity.<br /> The central figure remains problematic for me, wearing a crown which reminds me of a depiction of the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists aver that no representations of Anu exist.<br /> Also significant for me, this figure, whether it is a deity or an apkallu, wears a large ring around the torso. In the other example which I believe portrays the god Anu, a large ring or circle of this type also wraps the torso of the deity. As is indisputable in the other case, my suspicion is that this ring would also be decorated with rosettes, were sufficient detail feasible for the original illustrator.<br /> This figure also holds a ring or looped prayer beads in his left hand, an item typically reserved for deities, while raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting. The griffin demon on the left, and the human-headed sphinx on the right, will have to be explicated elsewhere in a later work.

Apkallu type 3, illustration 36, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
Professor Dalley cites this illustration, number 36, for the type 1 and type 3 apkallu standing at the flanks of a deity. In the first case, it is far from certain that the figure on the left of the central deity is an apkallu at all, as it lacks all indicators of divinity and most crucially, wings. This figure does raise what appears to be a mullilu cone in its right hand, and it does hold the usual banduddu bucket in his left hand, though it must be admitted that depictions of cones with leaves still attached are irregular.
Unfortunately Professor Dalley does not identify the deity in the center of the illustration, though I am encouraged that she does consider it to be a deity, rather than an apkallu of high rank, which deity I will provisionally attempt to name.
I have discussed elsewhere in captions to these illustrations the possibility that the deity at the center of this composition, which appears to adorn a necklace or breastplate, is the god Anu, who is allegedly never depicted in Mesopotamian iconography.
The circular device at the apex of his crown, which is appropriately horned, is apparent in only one other example that I can call to mind, a bronze face protector or frontal helmet depicted on other pages.
In that example, the circular device or disc is so worn that the lower portion of its mount mimics the inverted crescent of the Moon god Sin.
The context is inappropriate for Sin, however, and in no other case have I ever seen anything positioned between the upturned horns of Sin’s inverted crescent. It is more likely that the disc mount is simply worn from great age, with the circular portion along the top gone.
In any case, a bird-headed type 3 Nisroc apkallu is on the right, with banduddu bucket in the left hand and an indistinct item in his raised right hand. It appears to be a mullilu cone, but with leaves or sprouting, as noted.
As mentioned, the figure on the left side of the deity lacks wings, though it mimics the blessing gesture, cone and banduddu bucket of the right-side apkallu. The left side figure may not be an apkallu at all. Perhaps it is a priest. Or a human umu-apkallu. It lacks all symbols of divinity or semi-divinity.
The central figure remains problematic for me, wearing a crown which reminds me of a depiction of the god Anu. The problem is that Assyriologists aver that no representations of Anu exist.
Also significant for me, this figure, whether it is a deity or an apkallu, wears a large ring around the torso. In the other example which I believe portrays the god Anu, a large ring or circle of this type also wraps the torso of the deity. As is indisputable in the other case, my suspicion is that this ring would also be decorated with rosettes, were sufficient detail feasible for the original illustrator.
This figure also holds a ring or looped prayer beads in his left hand, an item typically reserved for deities, while raising his right hand in the classical gesture of greeting. The griffin demon on the left, and the human-headed sphinx on the right, will have to be explicated elsewhere in a later work.

The figure occurs with type 1 on sequences with three registers at doorways (6*).

Apkallu type 1, illustration 6, Stephanie Dalley, IDD. This classical depiction of an umu-apkallu includes the mullilu in the raised right hand in the gesture of blessing or exorcism and the banduddu bucket in the left hand. The horned tiara indicative of divinity may reflect the semi-divine status of the apkallu. Armlets at the elbow are present, as are wristbands with the typical rosette pattern.

Apkallu type 1, illustration 6, Stephanie Dalley, IDD.
This classical depiction of an umu-apkallu includes the mullilu in the raised right hand in the gesture of blessing or exorcism and the banduddu bucket in the left hand.
The horned tiara indicative of divinity may reflect the semi-divine status of the apkallu.
Armlets at the elbow are present, as are wristbands with the typical rosette pattern.

On 72 and 73 an altar is held up by a pair of naked Apkallus (in a very similar scene [MATTHEWS 1990: no. 452] a pair of mermen perform a similar function).

 As noted by Professor Dalley,


As noted by Professor Dalley, “The type occurs as a group of six or more clay figurines placed in brick boxes in foundations at Assur, Nimrud, and Nineveh,” citing Dessa Rittig as her source (Assyrisch-babylonische Kleinplastik magischer Bedeutung vom 13.-6. Jh. v. Chr. München, 1977).

Assyrian ritual texts describe clay figurines of this type (WIGGERMANN 1992: passim) as foundation figurines buried in groups of seven or more, with black paint, traces of which have occasionally been observed on such clay figurines, including one with black and red stripes painted on the back.”

Stephanie Dalley, “Apkallu,” Iconography of Deities and Demons in the Ancient Near East (IDD), Swiss National Science Foundation, University of Zurich, 2011 (text updated 2011 and illustrations updated 2007), p. 3-4/7.

From Anthony Green, Neo-Assyrian Apotropaic Figures, 1983

“From Assyria and Babylonia in the first half of the first millennium BCE comes a series of small figurines in the round and relief plaques, which are usually found beneath the floors of buildings within receptacles of baked or unbaked brick or (at Nineveh) stone slabs or (so far restricted to Aššur) pottery jars; the figurines themselves are almost invariably of sun-dried clay, very occasionally, perhaps, of terracotta or metal.

(Note 1: E. Douglas Van Buren, Foundation Figurines and Offerings (Berlin, 1931) [henceforth referred to as FFO] is now outdated on this subject. For a synthesis of material mainly from published sources up to 1973, see Dessa Rittig, Assyrisch-babylonische Kleinplastik magischer Bedeutung vom. 13.-6. Fh v. Chr. (München, 1977) [henceforth Rittig]. The Nimrud corpus remains for the most part unpublished. A certain amount of new material, including Nimrud figurines, will appear in R.S. Ellis, Domestic Spirits: Apotropaic Figurines in Mesopotamian Buildings (Philadelphia, forthcoming)).

Their purpose, as texts prescribing the rituals involved attest, was to avert evil from the buildings and sickness from the inhabitants.

The British School’s Nimrud complement comprises at least 136 relevant pieces from 66 separate deposits discovered in three buildings: the Burnt Palace, the Acropolis Palace (AB) and Fort Shalmaneser, and dating possibly from the reign of Shalmaneser III (?) or, at least, Adad-nirari III down to the fall of the Assyrian Empire in 613 BCE.

In this paper I shall deal with just one, but perhaps the most important, area on which the series sheds light, namely the question of the identification of the creatures represented by the various iconographic types. It can hardly be denied that the study of apotropaic figurines is of somewhat limited importance in itself. Where it succeeds is rather in the light which it throws upon matters of more general and basic interest.

It is vital here to recognize the official nature of the ritual and practice, and the consequent position of the iconography of the figurines in the official religion of the Assyrian state. And while there are no apparent documentary sources directly concerning, for example, the subjects of the apotropaic palace reliefs, there are texts ordaining procedures for apotropaic rituals involving figurines, which often enable identifications of analogous types.

Professor Mallowan was quick to recognize the relationship between the so-called Nisroch or “Griffin-demon” common in the ninth-century palaces and in Middle and Neo-Assyrian art in general (Plate IXa), and the bird-headed human figurines of apkallē from Phase E of the Burnt Palace (Plate IXb).

A bird-apkallū, the so-called Nisroch or "Griffin-demon). Plate IXa.

A bird-apkallū, the so-called Nisroch or “Griffin-demon.” Plate IXa.

A bird-headed human figurine of apkallē from Phase E of the Burnt Palace, Plate IXb.

A bird-headed human figurine of apkallē from Phase E of the Burnt Palace, Plate IXb.

Citing this instance, J.B. Stearns (Reliefs from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II, AfO Behest 15 (Graz, 1961), 26, n. 44), has remarked that although there is here an isolated, rather superficial, relationship, there are no general correspondences between the figures on the reliefs and the actual or prescribed figurines, and that even in this case the connection does not aid our understanding of the monumental figures:

” . . . it is important to note that they are only one type out of many kinds of statuettes mentioned in these texts. Thus the parallel between the foundation-figures and the reliefs seems far from complete, since only the … winged, eagle-headed genie is present in the texts …

It should also be noted that among the several types of figurines excavated none except the bird-headed type seems to resemble the genies of the reliefs …

In short, the relationship between the apkallē of the typical text here adduced and the excavated figurines seems rather superficial, and the connection of either texts or the figurines with the rites depicted on the reliefs seems too tenuous to warrant basing an explanation of the reliefs upon such evidence.”

But although this appears true when considering the reliefs catalogued in Stearn’s restricted study, it is not the case when the full repertoire of apotropaic figures on the reliefs and in fictile art is considered, when a number of correlations can be found.

The method of using such correlations to identify individual figure types has already been well vindicated, I believe, in Dr. Julian Reade’s reappraisal of the subject-matter of Assyrian sculpture.”

Anthony Green, “Neo-Assyrian Apotropaic Figures,” Iraq, Vol. 45, 1983, pp. 87-8.

Destroyer of Babylon

” … In 691 B.C. Sennacherib again struck a blow for Babylonia, but was unable to depose Mushezib-Merodach. His opportunity came, however, in 689 B.C. Elam had been crippled by raids of the men of Parsua (Persia), and was unable to co-operate with the Chaldaean king of Babylon.

Sennacherib captured the great commercial metropolis, took Mushezib-Merodach prisoner, and dispatched him to Nineveh.

Then he wreaked his vengeance on Babylon.

For several days the Assyrian soldiers looted the houses and temples, and slaughtered the inhabitants without mercy. E-sagila was robbed of its treasures, images of deities were either broken in pieces or sent to Nineveh: the statue of Bel-Merodach was dispatched to Asshur so that he might take his place among the gods who were vassals of Ashur.

“The city and its houses,” Sennacherib recorded, “from foundation to roof, I destroyed them, I demolished them, I burned them with fire; walls, gateways, sacred chapels, and the towers of earth and tiles, I laid them low and cast them into the Arakhtu.”

“So thorough was Sennacherib’s destruction of the city in 689 B.C.,” writes Mr. King, “that after several years of work, Dr. Koldewey concluded that all traces of earlier buildings had been destroyed on that occasion. More recently some remains of earlier strata have been recognized, and contract-tablets have been found which date from the period of the First Dynasty.

Moreover, a number of earlier pot-burials have been unearthed, but a careful examination of the greater part of the ruins has added little to our knowledge of this most famous city before the Neo-Babylonian period.”

[ … ]

Sennacherib’s palace was the most magnificent building of its kind ever erected by an Assyrian emperor. It was lavishly decorated, and its bas-reliefs display native art at its highest pitch of excellence.

The literary remains of the time also give indication of the growth of culture: the inscriptions are distinguished by their prose style. It is evident that men of culture and refinement were numerous in Assyria. The royal library of Kalkhi received many additions during the reign of the destroyer of Babylon.

46800

Like his father, Sennacherib died a violent death. According to the Babylonian Chronicle he was slain in a revolt by his son “on the twentieth day of Tebet” (680 B.C). The revolt continued from the “20th of Tebet” (early in January) until the 2nd day of Adar (the middle of February). On the 18th of Adar, Esarhaddon, son of Sennacherib, was proclaimed king.

Berosus states that Sennacherib was murdered by two of his sons, but Esarhaddon was not one of the conspirators. The Biblical reference is as follows:

“Sennacherib … dwelt at Nineveh. And it came to pass, as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch (?Ashur) his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer (Ashur-shar-etir) his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia (Urartu). And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead.”

Ashur-shar-etir appears to have been the claimant to the throne.

Donald A. Mackenzie, Myths of Babylonia and Assyria, 1915, pp. 468-70.