Stela of Shamshi-Adad V

From Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Iraq
Neo-Assyrian, about 824-811 BC

The achievements of an Assyrian king

Stelas were erected inside and outside temples, both within the empire and the neighbouring lands which recognized Assyrian rule.

This example was erected in the capital city of Kalhu (modern Nimrud) by the Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad V (reigned 824-811 BC). Most stele, as here, depict the king, before the symbols of his principal gods. He extends his right hand, with the forefinger outstretched, as if he has just snapped his fingers. This is the typical Assyrian gesture of respect and supplication towards the gods. The gods could be worshipped in symbolic form and here represent (from top to bottom) the gods Ashur, Shamash, Sin, Adad and Ishtar (compare with an earlier stela of Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 BC)). The king wears a large Maltese cross on his chest as an alternative symbol of Shamash, god of the sun and justice.

The image is unusual, as the king wears his beard in a strange archaic style, and the cuneiform text is written in an artificial antique script. Shamshi-Adad was keen to stress his legitimacy because he had been forced to fight for the throne against a rebellion, probably led by his elder brother.

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More information


J.E. Reade, Assyrian sculpture-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)

G Leick, A dictionary of Ancient Near E (London, Routledge, 1991)

M. Roaf, Cultural atlas of Mesopotamia (New York, 1990)


Height: 195.240 cm
Width: 92.540 cm
Depth: 71.960 cm

Museum number

ME 118892


Excavated by Hormuzd Rassam


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