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Relief of Shamash from Hatra

Relief of Shamash from Hatra

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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites Richard Stillwell, William L. MacDonald, Marian Holland McAllister, Stillwell, Richard, MacDonald, William L., McAlister, Marian Holland, Ed.

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What can be seen is chiefly later Parthian in date (1st and 2d c. A.D.). A defensive ditch and towered wall (of circular plan, probably in imitation of Ctesiphon) enclose ca. 320 ha. There is no regular street plan. The houses, built around courtyards, are of crude brick each has an iwan (a vaulted chamber or hall with one side open to a court). At the center of the city was a walled rectangular enclosure (ca. 300 x 450 m), pierced by seven gates and divided into two unequal parts by a transverse wall. Within this precinct were a number of sanctuaries, each of one or more iwans, and perhaps the city administrative center as well.

The chief monument in the enclosure is a great Temple to Shamash, the god of the sun (formerly called the palace, but inscriptions found in it would seem to guarantee its religious function). One inscription records that it was under construction in A.D. 77. The plan is Parthian, the structure Romano-Syrian. Major and minor iwans, the largest spanning ca. 21 m, were vaulted with stone voussoirs, and the walls are of dressed stone facing mortared rubble cores it is the only known building of this period in Mesopotamia to be constructed in this manner. Molding forms appear that are common to Hatra and Baalbek. Capitals specifically Ionic and Corinthian were used, and there is a garlanded frieze featuring the forequarters of bulls and lions that is unmistakably of Achaemenid origin. Next to the Shamash iwans is a fire temple or platform of square plan with vaulted galleries around it.

The synthetic nature, however creative, of Hatran art is seen also in the sculpture (relief, freestanding, and items of personal adornment). Greek, Neo-Iranian, and Roman Imperial elements mingle here, though the eastern mode predominates (frontality, stylization, patterning). This sculpture can be seen chiefly in the Iraqi Museum at Baghdad and in the Mosul Museum.


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Utu as Helper and Rescuer

In the same cultural frame Utu plays a crucial role in purification ceremonies such as the bit rimki, an ablution ritual against evil caused by eclipses. Of capital importance too is his role in the counter-witch maql û ("burning") ritual. After the night trial that convicted the witch and absolved her victim (originally judgement took place by day) and the witch's consequent destruction in the morning under the sun's beams, the purifications were carried out, thus freeing the victim from evil and restoring his or her previous relationship with his or her personal god (Abusch, 2002). Sunlight also provides the means of detection, and consequently Utu is the one who knows the most hidden aspects of the universe. Because of this skill he (together with Ishkur/Adad) is the "lord of the omina," for the truth the oracle manifests reveals the ways of the cosmic order known to the god. The omen is signifier of other realities hence in the poem "Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta" the god plays a determining role in the invention of writing. Being all-knowing of hidden connections, he can also indicate the right direction to anyone who is lost or does not know the way (see the myths of Gilgamesh and Huwawa and of Lugalbanda). In addition he is merciful. Misfortune is a consequence of the actions of evil entities, and the god repels them into the darkness. Utu was considered to be the helper and advocate of the oppressed, safeguarding the orphan, the widow, and the poor (a task entrusted to the sovereigns), a role that was also attributed to the goddess Nanshe. It was Utu's function to right injustice, and the oppressed turned to him with their cry "I-Utu" ("O Utu!"), a phrase that came to mean oppression itself, and even (complaining) malcontents. As master of the borders, of the signs, and of the laws that govern them all, he is also master of all physical features, that is, of people's borders. In fact Utu transforms Dumuzi, pursued by the demons, into different animal forms in order to rescue him.


The footage was posted to a militant website frequently used by the terrorist organisation.

ISIS currently controls a swath of land slightly larger than the UK, from Aleppo to central Iraq.

The fanatics claim ancient relics are 'false idols' which promote idolatry that violates their fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law.

Authorities also believe they have been sold on the black market to fund their atrocities.

In the shocking footage, ISIS thugs batter relics they claim are 'false idols' in the 2,000-year old city of Hatra

The fanatics claim relics promote idolatry that violates their fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law

A militant chips away at a pillar in Hatra with a pickaxe - the UN has called their actions a 'war crime'

A militant slams his axe into a pillar in the World Heritage site - ISIS believes statues and shrines are un-Islamic 'false idols' that must be destroyed

A militant takes aim at three religious relics on the side of a historic building in the 2,000-year old city

An ISIS thug hacks away at the side of the historic walls with a hammer, smashing it into pieces as they fall to the ground

In between the shocking acts of destruction, the video pans to two militants speaking and brandishing their fingers directly into the camera

The slickly produced seven minute clip begins with an aerial shot over the ancient site where relics have been destroyed by ISIS

Hatra, 68 miles southwest of ISIS-held city of Mosul, is 2,000 years old and is a UNESCO World Heritage site

ISIS have destroyed ancient relics such as this in Hatra, as they violates their fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law

Last month, ISIS terrorists were pictured toppling crosses, smashing Christian relics with hammers and erecting the black flag of ISIS on churches in Nineveh, the ancient capital of the Assyrian empire.

Pictured in civilian clothing, the ISIS thugs were seen overturning statues, destroying religious icons and replacing Christian crosses with the chilling ISIS banner.

Elsewhere, ISIS went on a rampage in the Assyrian city of Nimrud in northern Iraq, destroying the 3,000 year-old winged statues placed at the gates of the Palace of Ashurnasirpal.

The jihadists also bulldozed ruins in Hatra in March.

ISIS have also set off bombs around Mosul Central Library, destroying as many as 10,000 priceless and irreplaceable books and manuscripts.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called the Nimrud attack 'a war crime.'

Hatra, 68 miles southwest of the ISIS-held city of Mosul, was a large fortified city during the Parthian Empire and capital of the first Arab kingdom.

It is home to numerous temples and sculptures dedicated to gods including Apollo and Poseidon.

The video comes in the wake of a major blow for ISIS, with Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit falling into the hands of the Iraqi government.

Tikrit is 80 miles north of Baghdad on the main highway to Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.

Meanwhile Isis has taken control of 90 per cent of a Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Damascus - only a few kilometres from Bashar al-Assad's stronghold.

A human rights monitoring group claimed that the terror organisation almost has full control of the camp which has a population of 18,000 civilians.

The United Nations said it was very concerned about the safety of the population.

Chris Gunness of the UN Relief and Works agency said: 'The situation in Yarmouk is an affront to the humanity of all of us, a source of universal shame.

'Yarmouk is a test, a challenge for the international community. We must not fail. The credibility of the international system itself is at stake.'

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights warned that the population of the camp are under threat of death from Isis, hunger and disease.


Hatra is 68 miles southwest of the city of Mosul.

It dates back 2,000 years to the Seleucid empire which controlled a large part of the ancient world conquered by Alexander the Great.

It is famous for its striking pillared temple at the centre of a sprawling archaeological site.

The ancient city, a UNESCO world heritage site, is said to have withstood invasions by the Romans thanks to its high, thick walls reinforced by towers.

A temple to the Shamash sun god still stands more than 1,750 years after the Sassanian empire razed the Mesopotamian city.

The ancient trading centre in Hatra spanned 4 miles in circumference and was supported by more than 160 towers.

At its heart are a series of temples with a grand temple at the center — a structure supported by columns that once rose to 100 feet.

Shamash is frequently associated with the lion, both in mythology and artistic depictions. [3] In Canaanite religion a “son of Ba’al Shamash” is known for slaying a lion (the son himself possibly an aspect of the god), and Shamash himself is depicted as a lion in religious iconography. [3] [4]

In both the manga and animated series Shaman King, Shamash is the god-class spirit of Iron Maiden Jeanne, the leader of the X-Laws. In the Swedish roleplaying game Drakar och Demoner, “Shamash” is a god of truth, very important to the plotline in “Konfluxsviten” a large and very popular scenario.

Bas-reliefs of masks in temple of Shamash

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Les sanctuaires de Shamash

Le dieu-Soleil était la divinité tutélaire de deux des villes les plus importantes de Basse Mésopotamie, Larsa et Sippar. Chacune d'elles disposait de son grand temple, nommé dans les deux cas é-babbar, ce qui signifie en sumérien « Maison brillante ». Un troisième temple portant ce nom est attesté à Assur, mais de moindre importance. Les deux grands temples de Shamash ont été dégagés lors de fouilles et ont révélé à chaque fois un complexe monumental majeur, organisé autour du grand temple du dieu et de plusieurs cours, et dominés par une ziggurat. Ils ont eu cet aspect à la suite d'une longue série de constructions, restaurations et réaménagements, notamment à la période néo-babylonienne sous les règnes de Nabuchodonosor II et Nabonide. L'Ebabbar de Larsa a connu un essor à la fin du III e millénaire av. J.‑C. durant les dynasties d'Akkad et Ur III, avant d'être agrandi et entretenu par les rois de la puissante dynastie de Larsa puis leurs successeurs babyloniens durant les premiers siècles du II e millénaire av. J.‑C. , qui correspondent à la phase d'essor du culte de Shamash. Il est ensuite restauré par des rois kassites puis assyriens et les derniers grands souverains de Babylone qui ont également entrepris des travaux à Sippar. Ce complexe religieux avait une organisation originale, étant constitué d'un alignement de bâtiments et de cours d'orientation sud-ouest/nord-est sur plus de 300 mètres, le temple se trouvant à un bout et la cour de la ziggurat à l'autre. L'Ebabbar de Sippar, dont une surface moindre a été dégagée, apparaît comme un complexe plus tassé, le temple de plan tripartite jouxtant la ziggurat. S'y trouvait la cella abritant la statue de culte du dieu Shamash, bordée par les chapelles de sa parèdre Aya et de son vizir Bunene [ 31 ] .

Ces deux sanctuaires ont été d'importants centres religieux mais aussi, comme c'était la règle en Mésopotamie, d'importantes unités économiques disposant de vastes domaines et gérées par une administration propre. De fait, les nombreuses archives qui y ont été exhumées documentent surtout la vie économique et sociale de ces temples et des villes où ils se trouvent. Le clergé de Shamash est donc surtout connu dans ses activités économiques, en particulier par les tablettes retrouvées à Sippar. À la période paléo-babylonienne ( XVIII e et XVII e siècles av. J.-C. ), ses administrateurs, en particulier le šangum, sont des personnages importants de la ville. Les autres prêtres importants sont des purificateurs, des chantres et des prébendiers disposant de charges du culte qu'ils accomplissent de façon cyclique. Cette période est marquée par la présence d'un groupe particulier de religieuses, appelées nadītum, qui résident en communauté dans un secteur proche du temple, peut-être le quartier tassé disposant de petites unités qui a été dégagé à côté du temple, appelé gagûm par les textes. Elles étaient vouées par leurs familles au dieu Shamash, et elles sont présentées comme étant ses kallatum (terme au sens flou : « fiancée » ou « belle-fille »). Elles n'avaient pas le droit de se marier ni d'enfanter, mais pouvaient mener des affaires qui sont bien documentées. Plusieurs d'entre elles étaient richement dotées, car issues de riches familles et parfois même de familles royales. Leur rôle cultuel est en revanche très effacé voire inexistant [ 32 ] . L'autre époque durant laquelle l'activité de ce temple est bien documentée est la période néo-babylonienne (c. 600-480 av. J.-C.), durant laquelle le personnel cultuel, alors désigné collectivement comme erīb bīti (ceux qui ont le droit de rentrer dans la zone sacrée du temple), comprend toujours de nombreux prébendiers, et est dirigé par un grand prêtre portant le titre de « Grand frère » (ahu rabū) qui préside le collège (kiništu) des prêtres [ 33 ] . Ce même temple est alors un lieu de savoir important, comme l'atteste l'impressionnante découverte d'une bibliothèque dans une partie de l'édifice en 1985 par des archéologues irakiens, comprenant des rituels religieux, des hymnes, des prières et des listes lexicales servant pour la formation et l'exercice du métier des prêtres du temple, mais aussi quelques œuvres « littéraires » (ainsi Atrahasis et l'Épopée de la Création) et des copies de vieilles inscriptions royales [ 34 ] .

Le culte des grands sanctuaires de Larsa et Sippar s'éteint entre le IV e siècle av. J.-C. et le II e siècle av. J.-C. avec l'effacement des anciennes traditions religieuses mésopotamiennes et des structures qui assuraient leur pérennité. Durant les trois premiers siècles de notre ère, le culte de Shamash connaît néanmoins un dernier essor plus au nord, dans la ville de Hatra dont le dieu-Soleil est la divinité tutélaire [ 35 ] . Dans les inscriptions en alphabet araméen qui y ont été mises au jour, son nom y apparaît sous la forme šmš (cette écriture ne notant pas les voyelles comme les autres alphabets sémitiques), et est souvent appelé par l'épithète Maran, « Notre maître », et de nombreuses personnes portent un nom composé à partir de celui de ce dieu. Celui-ci présente alors des particularités par rapport au dieu-Soleil de la tradition ancienne puisque sa parèdre est alors la déesse appelée Martan, « Notre maîtresse » (qui ne semble pas correspondre à Aya même si son identité exacte reste indéterminée), et que son animal-attribut est l'aigle (Nishra). Dans les inscriptions locales en alphabet romain, il est assimilé au Sol Invictus par des soldats de la légion stationnant dans la ville durant la première moitié du III e siècle. La religion de Hatra est en effet marquée par un puissant syncrétisme, mêlant les anciennes traditions mésopotamiennes à des influences araméennes, arabes, helléniques et romaines. Shamash dispose d'un temple dans la partie centrale de la ville, qui est un vaste sanctuaire enclos dans une muraille, et témoigne là aussi de fortes influences gréco-romaines.


Description: This 9th century BC stone tablet (BM 91000), with a bas-relief and cuneiform captions was discovered inside an inscribed terracotta chest (BM 91004), also containing two or more clay impressions of the tablet’s relief, one with a cultic text on the back (BM 91002). The chest and impressions are probably dateable to the reign of Nabonidus, three centuries after the stone tablet. The assemblage was excavated by Hormuzd Rassam in 1881 at Abū Habbah, and proved that site’s identification with ancient Sippar.

The stone Sun-God tablet was commissioned by king Nabû-Apla-Iddina (887-855), and represents an early example of a Neo-Babylonian king’s antiquarian interests. It was styled after the Middle Babylonian Kudurru, using archaizing Middle Babylonian language, and adapting iconography originating as far back as the Ur III period or earlier(Woods, 46 ff.). Drawing on this sense of antiquity to legitimize the cultic endowments established in the text, it describes the history of established offerings amidst disruptions to order attributed to the Sutians. According to the text, after one Nabû-šuma-ušarši, a šangû priest of the Ebabbar temple found a fired clay relief of Šamaš on the banks of the Euphrates and brought it to the king, Nabû-Apla-Iddina was able to re-fasion Šamaš’s cultic statue and re-instated generous regular cultic gifts of food, drink and garments. The relief depicts three figures approaching a stool with a sun disc, on the other side of which sits Šamaš in his shrine.

The text is recognized for its importance among art historians and historiographers of the ancient Near East. For a full account see Woods: JCS 56, 2004.

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Hatra is an ancient Arab city in Upper Mesopotamia, in present-day northern Iraq. It developed during the first three centuries of the Christian era, especially in the second century, when it was the capital of a powerful kingdom, an ally of the Parthian Empire, and when it resisted several sieges. of the armies of the Roman Empire. Hatra was an important religious center, whose main deity was the Sun God Shamash. Its influence extended to neighboring Arab tribes, and it was undoubtedly also an important caravan center. Its culture was a mixture of Mesopotamian, Syrian, Greco-Roman and Iranian traditions, visible in particular in the religious, architectural and artistic fields. It was destroyed after the fall of the Parthians, by the Sassanid Persians and then abandoned thereafter. The ruins, dominated by several large temples and the remains of its imposing wall, were excavated at the beginning of the 20th century by German archaeologists then, from the 1950s, by Iraqi teams, before being listed as a World Heritage Site UNESCO in 1985.

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External links

  • Ancient Mesopotamian Gods and Goddesses: Utu/Šamaš (god)
  • Symbols.com description of Shamash symbol
  • The Great American Novel (1973)
  • Gilgamesh the King (1984)
  • Gilgamesh in the Outback (1986)
  • Timewyrm: Genesys (1991)
  • The Sorceress: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel (2009)
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  1. Fitzjames

    Thank you for the article. Delighted as always

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