ancient-near-east

Saint Thecla and the wild beast, 5th century A.D., probably made in Egypt.

Saint Thecla was a female saint from ancient Anatolia (Turkey). The Acts of Paul and Thecla detail her story with her originally being betrothed but then leaving to follow Paul. She is sentence to being eaten alive by beasts after a man assaults her and claimed she attacked him. The beasts try to attack her but a lioness saves her before it dies. Thecla then has a mystic baptism after which her attacker says to release her. She is taken care of by a Roman woman after which she leaves to find Paul and continue her spiritual journey.  The text can be read here.  

The original text of The Acts of Paul and Thecla survives in many languages including Greek, Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, and Latin.  St. Thecla is venerated in most pre-Reformation Christian Churches but the text is considered apocryphal but is popular among the Eastern Churches.  The text is considered apocryphal because the story involves partially self baptism and also that some were attempting to use the text as basis for women’s ordination. (See Tertullian’s De Baptismo Chapter 17)  

In terms of art, the above iconography was probably made in Egypt however it shares other traits with the ancient Near East that admin Lady Xoc/Chaotic Bleu discovered.  With both the lions and also Thecla’s pose, the piece is similar to Inanna/Ishtar on the Burney Relief (also called Queen of the Night) and to the Egyptian piece depicting the Canaanite goddess Qadesh/Qetesh (both pieces posted on this blog).  We aren’t suggesting that Thecla is connected to either goddess, put that such a pose of a woman, whether divine or human, may be a common theme in ancient Near Eastern art.

~Hasmonean 

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“The fabulous griffin figure evolved out of a long pictorial tradition of fantastic animals. On the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, there is a depiction of the Mushhushshu, a long-necked quadruped with the head and scaly body of a snake. This was the emblem of Marduk, war god and protector of the city. The griffin was a Susian creation of the late 4th millennium that became widespread, in many forms. An accounting tablet, for example, bears the mark of a cylinder seal showing a winged griffin followed by an antelope (Louvre Museum, sb4837). Many images of the griffin have been been found dating from the Neo-Elamite period, including one in bricks, shown passing before a tree, used as an element of architectural decoration (Louvre Museum, sb3370). Griffins facing each other also feature on the walls of the palace at Persepolis, built by Darius I, like the palace at Susa. The meaning of this imaginary animal remains unclear: it may refer to ancient Elamite religions and as such may represent an area of the Persian empire.” [x]

Sumerian Dedication Nail

Lagash (present-day Telloh, Iraq), ca. 2100 BC (Neo-Sumerian)

Body H: (16 x 4.5 cm); Diam of Head: (6.9 cm)

Clay nails such as this one inscribed with the name of King Gudea of Lagash were embedded in the upper parts of walls, sometimes with the head protruding. They may have developed from the custom of hammering a peg into a wall to signal ownership. This example bears a dedication to a deity and would have symbolically marked a temple as divine property.

(In the Walters Museum of Art)

He was the head of antiquities for the ancient city of Palmyra for more than 40 years. When daesh (the so-called Islamic state) took control of the region, he refused to tell them where he had hidden priceless ancient artifacts (to keep them safe from the group). For his actions, they labeled him an idolater and an apostate; and they had him publicly beheaded. He was brave and loyal unto death, refusing to betray his beloved city. He chose to die rather than bow to the terror group. Thus, may he feast with the gods and the great heroes in the afterlife! And may daesh be trampled and crushed until they are no more than ash and dust! 

- Keith A. Fair

A Babylonian Princess Poet

Enheduanna, the daughter of King Sargon of Akkad (2334-2279 BCE), composed numerous poems and hymns, such as the one above written in Sumerian and dedicated to the goddess Inanna (the Sumerian counterpart to Ishtar). During her lifetime, Enheduanna served as a high priestess of the moon god, Nanna, in the city of Ur. A genuine creative talent, she is also remembered as one of the first named authors in history. Although the tablet above is somewhat damaged, it provides a good example of a later copy of one of her hymns, which shows that her work continued to be read and taught in scribal schools well into the second millennium BCE. (Source)

Schoyen Collection, MS 2367/1.

Stamp-cylinder seal 

The seal shows mythological scenes, a god is sitting on a throne on the left of the image before five other gods that approach him, one of these gods has two faces. On the right of the image a deitie is slaying a fallen enemie, while two other enemies are burning on a pyre.

Anatolian, Hittite Period, 1650 - 1200 BC. 

Location is unknown but it is said to have been found on Cyprus. 

Source: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston