Myths and Legends of Babylonia and Assyria
Page: 122The Dog in Babylonia
Strangely enough the dog was classed by the Babylonians as a monster animal and one to be despised and avoided. In a prayer against the powers of evil we read, "From the dog, the snake, the scorpion, the reptile, and whatever is baleful ... may Merodach preserve us." We find that although the Babylonians possessed an excellent breed of dog they were not fond of depicting them either in painting or bas-relief. Dogs are seen illustrated in a bas-relief of Assur-bani-pal, and five clay figures of dogs now in the British Museum represent hounds which belonged to that monarch. The names of these[Pg 291] animals are very amusing, and appear to indicate that those who bestowed them must have suffered from a complete lack of the humorous sense, or else have been blessed with an overflow of it. Translated, the names are: 'He-ran-and-barked,' 'The-Producer-of-Mischief,' 'The-Biter-of-his-foes,' 'The-Judge-of-his-companions,' and 'The-Seizer-of-enemies.' How well these names would fit certain dogs we all know or have known! Here is good evidence from the buried centuries that dog nature like human nature has not changed a whit.
But why should the dog, fellow-hunter with early man and the companion of civilized humanity, have been regarded as evil? Professor Sayce considers that the four dogs of Merodach "were not always sent on errands of mercy, and that originally they had been devastating winds."
The fragment of a legend exists which does not exhibit the dog in any very favourable light.
Once there was a shepherd who was tormented by the constant assaults of dogs upon his flocks. He prayed to Ea for protection, and the great god of wisdom sent his son Merodach to reassure the shepherd.
"Ea has heard thee," said Merodach. "When the great dogs assault thee, then, O shepherd, seize them from behind and lay them down, hold them and overcome them. Strike their heads, pierce their breasts. They are gone; never may they return. With the wind may they go, with the storm above it! Take their road and cut off their going. Seize their mouths, seize their mouths, seize their weapons! Seize their teeth, and make them ascend,[Pg 292] by the command of Ea, the lord of wisdom; by the command of Merodach, the lord of revelation."
The gazelle or antelope was a mythological animal in Babylonia so far as it represented Ea, who is entitled 'the princely gazelle' and 'the gazelle who gives the earth.' But this animal was also appropriated to Mul-lil, the god of Nippur, who was specially called the 'gazelle god.' It is likely, therefore, that this animal had been worshipped totemically at Nippur. Scores of early cylinders represent it being offered in sacrifice to a god, and bas-reliefs and other carvings show it reposing in the arms of various deities. The goat, too, seems to have been peculiarly sacred, and formed one of the signs of the zodiac. A god called Uz has for his name the Akkadian word for goat. Mr Hormuzd Rassam found a sculptured stone tablet in a temple of the sun-god at Sippara on which was an inscription to Sin, Shamash, and Ishtar, as being "set as companions at the approach to the deep in sight of the god Uz." This god Uz is depicted as sitting on a throne watching the revolution of the solar disc, which is placed upon a table and made to revolve by means of a rope or string. He is clad in a robe of goat-skin.