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Here there be dragons: Sirrush

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For an awesome, respected, Mesopotamian beast featured on one of the most amazing buildings extant from the ancient world, we don’t know much about the sirrush. It looks like a dragon. Early archaeologists gave it the wrong name. That’s about it.

The reconstruction of the Ishtar Gate

The Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon was once one of the wonders of the ancient world. Like, on the official list of seven, but then the Greek Pharaohs built the lighthouse of Alexandria and someone dropped the gate from the list. I really think they should put it back and drop the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, actually, since we can’t prove they existed.

In any case… the German archaeologist Professor Robert Koldewey started excavation of the Ishtar Gate in 1899. When he got down a ways, he discovered the blue gate was covered in golden animals. Lions, bulls, and… that other thing. A scaly, long tailed, four legged creature with a serpent’s tongue and the hind feet of a bird.

Archaeologists called it sirrush, an ancient Akkadian word meaning “splendor serpent.” Except now that we know more about Akkadian, we know it should really be “mushushu.” Somehow (and I don’t know how), they discovered the beast was the sacred animal of Marduk (you remember him).


But that’s all we know. No clue if there’s a connection to the vicious Tiamat, what inspired the creature, what it’s doing there looking pretty much like the realistic bull and lion. Were the Babylonians portraying a real live animal, or a mythical protector of their city?

The reconstructed gate is now in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Well, the smallest part of it. The bigger, second gate is in storage, since it’s too big.

For more dragons, click the dragon tag in the sidebar.


About teresawilde

Author of Young Adult Paranormals, Paranormal Romance, Historical Paranormal Romance, tragical- comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, and poem unlimited.

One response to “Here there be dragons: Sirrush

  1. Great post. I love crazy, ancient beasts. And I had never heard of this one! How did I miss that? Must go research some more. (:

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