Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The Bull-Man

Posted by Fredsvenn on June 4, 2015

Erebuni was founded by King Argishti I in 782 BCE. It was built on top of a hill called Arin Berd overlooking the Arax River Valley to serve as a strategic military center and royal residence.

Bullman from Urartu (Armenia) 800 century Uttrykksikonet smile

BULL-MAN – In Sumerian mythology, a demon who works closely with human beings and the gods to hold at bay the forces of chaos. He is depicted as a man above the waist and a bull below. While the Greek bull-man Minotaur has a man’s body and a bull’s head the Asian bull-man lamassu has a man’s head and a bull’s body.

TIAMAT’S CREATURES – Eleven terrifying monsters created by Tiamat to avenge the death of Apsu and destroy the younger gods.

There were three fearsome horned snakes: Musmahhu, Usumgallu and Basmu; the snake-dragon Mushhushshu; Lahmu the hairy super man; Ugallu, the lion-demon; Uridimmu, the lion-man; Girtablullu, the scorpion-man; Umu-Debrutu, terrifying storms; Kulullu, the fish-man (mermen and mermaids) and Kusarikku, the bull-man.

All eleven of Tiamat’s creatures were defeated by Marduk who preserved images of them in the watery remains of Abzu to commemorate his victory.

They were made ample use of by the people of Mesopotamia in magical incantations and to ward off evil and the forces of chaos. Many of their images are well known today through statues outside of palaces and temples, most notably the Ishtar Gate of Babylon.

LAMASSU – The famous Assyrian winged bull-man who adorned palaces and temples to frighten off the forces of chaos were protective spirits who were sometimes depicted as the Bull-Man (human above the waist and bull below) but, more often as a human-headed bull or lion with wings.

The name lamassu is not without problems. The Sumerian word lama, which is rendered in Akkadian as lamassu, refers to a protective deity, who is usually female. She is often represented as a standing figure that introduces guests to another, superior god. So she is actually a servant. Her male counterpart is called alad or, in Akkadian, šêdu.

During the Neo-Assyrian Empire (c.883-612), large monumental bulls, often with wings and always with human heads, were placed as gateway guardians at the entrances of royal palaces like Khorsabad and Nineveh. The general idea behind them was that they warded off evil. (In jargon: they were apotropaic figures.) Usually, they have five legs. Lion-bodied protective deities are also known, and are usually called “sphinxes”.

These monumental statues were called aladlammû (“protective spirit”) or lamassu, which means that the original female word was now applied for a rather macho demon. In one modern interpretation, they combine the strength of a bull, the freedom of an eagle, and the intelligence of a human being. Female lamassu’s are called apsasû.

Lammasu’s are also known from the palaces of the Achaemenid kings. Those in Pasargadae have now disappeared, but in Persepolis, we can still see them in the Gate of All Nations. The hoofs are visible in the Unfinished Gate; in the building that is identified as either a Council Hall or a Tripylon (“triple gate”), lamassu’s served as the capitals of columns.

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