A Winged Hero Pursuing Two Ostriches

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grey marble
Overall: 1 1/4 × 9/16 in. (3.1 × 1.4 cm)
The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York
Morgan Seal 606

In one of the most striking of the Morgan's Middle Assyrian seals, a hero pursues an adult ostrich, possibly representing the earthly equivalent of the griffin, the conveyor of death. The fleeing ostrich, with its head turned back in fear and fury and its feathers bristling, ranks among the greatest Mesopotamian depictions of animals. In the biblical Book of Job (39:13–17), the ostrich is considered a malevolent creature because it disdains its young, which may account for the presence of the young ostrich and enhances our understanding of this extraordinary seal.

Acquired by Pierpont Morgan sometime between 1885 and 1908

"The interpretation of the griffin as an equivalent of the angel of death may furnish an explanation for the scene of 606, which shows a winged hero pursuing ostriches, usually regarded as harmless animals. Nevertheless the Assyrian may have seen an earthly counterpart to the supernatural griffin in this bird, because of its size and because it lives in the desert, which was believed to be an abode of the dead."--Porada, CANES, p. 70


Winged hero brandishing sword and grasping ostrich in flight; beside latter, smaller ostrich -- In field, inscription (erased).