Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History



  • Cylinder seal with a battle of the gods, ca. 2220–2159 b.c.; Akkadian
    Mesopotamia, Kish
    Lapis lazuli; H. 1 1/8 in. (2.8 cm), Diam. 11/16 in. (1.7 cm)
    Anonymous Loan (L.1992.23.4)

    This seal, excavated at Kish (Tell Ingharra) is an exceptionally fine example of the Akkadian seal cutter's art. Executed with great attention to detail, it shows a battle among several gods, identified as deities by their horned headdresses. Three of the standing gods appear to be conquerors. One, wearing a long skirt partially tucked up at the waist to allow easy leg movement, smashes his mace on the head of an enemy god fallen before him, who raises his right hand to ward off the blow. To the right, a second standing god, also wearing a tucked-up skirt and carrying a dagger at his waist, triumphantly places his foot on a second fallen enemy, who looks up toward his attacker and, like the first victim, raises his right arm and hand over his head. The attacking deity grasps the arm of yet another enemy god with his right hand and seizes the god's horned crown with his left. Next to this complex group stand two more gods similarly dressed in long skirts. One raises his mace and grasps the crown of the other, who stretches out his hands in a supplicatory gesture while dropping his own mace in defeat.

    The theme of a battle among the gods was popular on Akkadian seals. Since later texts provide no assistance in interpreting the specifics of the depicted scenes, it has not been possible to associate the theme with a particular myth. However, in several world mythologies, battles between successive generations of gods appear at the end of cycles of creation. At the beginning of the later Creation Epic of Mesopotamia, for example, it is necessary for Tiamat (personifying an angry ocean) and her demonic brood to be defeated.

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  • Cylinder seal with a battle of the gods, ca. 2220–2159 B.C.; Akkadian
    Mesopotamia, Kish
    Lapis lazuli; H. 1 1/8 in. (2.8 cm), Diam. 11/16 in. (1.7 cm)
    Anonymous Loan (L.1992.23.4)

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