Stone figure of an attendant god

From Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Iraq
Neo-Assyrian, about 811-783 BC

From the Temple of Nabu, god of writing

This limestone figure is one of a pair set up outside a doorway in the Temple of Nabu, the Mesopotamian god of writing, and dedicated to him. The statue clearly represents a god since he wears the horned headdress that all Mesopotamian gods are shown wearing, but it is unlikely to be Nabu; the position of the hands suggests a divine servant.

The inscription mentions King Adad-nirari III (reigned 811-783 BC) and the queen mother Sammuramat, clearly a forceful character whose name was remembered in the Greek period, when she surfaces as the legendary Queen Semiramis. This is a rare indication of the power sometimes held by women at the Assyrian court, usually behind the scenes. Queens, like any women, were seldom represented in sculpture; one exception is the queen who is depicted on a stone relief from the palace of Ashurbanipal, in the later Assyrian capital of Nineveh.

Sculptured monuments were normally commissioned by the king, but this one was erected by the governor of Nimrud. This happened at a time when senior officials, probably eunuchs, were in a powerful position following a rebellion crushed by Adad-nirari's father and Sammuramat's husband, Shamshi-Adad V (reigned 824-811 BC).

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More information

Bibliography

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

Dimensions

Height: 182.880 cm

Museum number

ME 118889

WCO26504

Excavated by Hormuzd Rassam

Location

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