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Work Stela with the storm god Adad brandishing thunderbolts

Department of Near Eastern Antiquities: Mesopotamia

Stele representing the storm god Adad brandishing lightning-bolts

© 2000 RMN / Franck Raux

Near Eastern Antiquities
Mesopotamia

Author(s):
Kalensky Patricia

This stela, from a provincial palace of the Assyrian Empire, testifies to the adaptation of Levantine traditions to Neo-Assyrian monumental sculpture. The storm god, whose cult was widespread in the Syrian world, is here shown in the guise of the Assyrian god Adad.

A monument from an Aramaean city conquered by the Assyrians

This stela was discovered in 1928 by the French archaeological expedition under François Thureau-Dangin, at Arslan Tash in Northern Syria. This was the site of the ancient Aramaean city of Hadatu, which became a provincial capital after its conquest by the Assyrians in the 9th century BC. In the 8th century BC, Tiglath-Pileser III built a palace there and restored the temples. The stela was found in one of the principal temples, that of the goddess Ishtar.

The storm god

The stela shows the storm god, worshiped throughout the Syrian world since the second millennium BC. He is depicted striding forward vigorously atop a charging bull, his attribute animal whose bellowing recalls the sound of thunder. The violence of the storm, symbolized by the thunderbolts brandished in each hand, finds expression in the energetic attitude of the god and the sword he wears. Storms are also related to fertility, through the beneficial effects of the rain they bring. The god thus appears as the masculine counterpart to Ishtar, goddess of love and war, who is shown on stela AO 11503. What is more, the god here wears a horned tiara surmounted by a starred disc, a motif that perhaps refers to Ishtar as a personification of the planet Venus. This stela of Adad would not then have been out of place in the sanctuary of the goddess.

A cultural mixture

The rounded top of the stela is typically Levantine. The stone used here, in keeping with local custom, was basalt, a hard rock that is difficult to work. This monument, together with the other sculptures at Arslan Tash, was probably made by a local artist under the direction of Assyrian sculptors.
For this god so familiar in Syrian tradition is shown here in his Assyrian form as Adad, as can be seen by his costume: he is draped in a great cloak or shawl in a material decorated with several rows of long woolly locks, such as one finds in certain reliefs at Nimrud. The garment opens wide over the left leg to reveal a short tunic beneath. This costume is well attested in the Assyrian reliefs, as are the style of the god's hair, gathered together in a mass of curls at the nape, the cylindrical tiara, the long, square beard, and the long sword with its decorated scabbard passed through the belt at the waist. This sculpture is thus a fine example of syncretism between local cultures and Assyrian influences.

Technical description

  • Stele representing the storm god Adad brandishing lightning-bolts

    Reign of Tiglath-pileser III (744-727 BC)

    Arslan Tash (ancient Hadatu)

  • Basalt

    H. 1.36 m; W. 0.54 m; D. 0.42 m

  • F. Thureau-Dangin, A. Barrois excavations, 1928 , 1928

    AO 13092

  • Near Eastern Antiquities

    Richelieu wing
    Ground floor
    Mesopotamia and northern Syria. Assyria: Til Barsip, Arslan Tash, Nimrud, Nineveh
    Room 230

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