Pink chalcedony cylinder seal

From Mesopotamia
Kassite dynasty, about 1400-1300 BC

Shamash seated before a sun disc

This cylinder seal is typical of the period when the dynasty of Kassite kings (probably originally from eastern Mesopotamia) ruled Babylonia (about 1550-1155 BC).

The seated figure is the sun-god Shamash, sitting in front of a sun disc, and below a cross, both his symbols. The seven-line cuneiform inscription, a prayer to Shamash, can be translated: 'Shamash, king of heaven and earth whose me's are brilliant, who advances with horns, who - through his (servant) who reveres him - has brought salvation: Sha-ilimma-damqa, son of Lugal-mansi.' Shamash represents the brilliant light of the sun, which returns every day to illuminate the life of mankind, as well as giving beneficial warmth, which causes plants to grow. In Akkadian tradition he was sometimes the son of the god of heaven Anu or of the supreme god Enlil. His principal temple was called E-babbar ('White House') at Sippar. Presumably because the sun, in its path across the skies, see everything, Shamash came to be regarded as the god of truth, justice and right. As a protector and destroyer of evil, he also acted as a warrior.

The me's referred to in the quotation are properties of the gods which enable many activities, central to civilized human life, to take place: such as religion, kingship, ritual music. This is a very fundamental concept in Sumerian religion.

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More information


D. Collon, First impressions: cylinder se (London, The British Museum Press, 1987)


Length: 4.400 cm
Diameter: 1.900 cm

Museum number

ME 89128


Acquired before 1900


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