The mušḫuššu (𒈲𒄭𒄊; formerly also read as sirrušu or sirrush) or mushkhushshu (pronounced [muʃxuʃʃu] or [musxussu]), is a creature from ancient Mesopotamian mythology. A mythological hybrid, it is a scaly animal with hind legs resembling the talons of an eagle, lion-like forelimbs, a long neck and tail, a horned head, a snake-like tongue, and a crest. The mušḫuššu most famously appears on the reconstructed Ishtar Gate of the city of Babylon, dating to the sixth century BCE.

Mušḫuššu on a vase of Gudea, circa 2100 BCE.jpg
Mušḫuššu holding a gate post on a vase of Gudea c. 2100 BCE. Louvre Museum[1]
GroupingMythological hybrid
Other name(s)Sirrush

The form mušḫuššu is the Akkadian nominative of Sumerian: 𒈲𒄭𒄊 MUŠ.ḪUS, 'reddish snake', sometimes also translated as 'fierce snake'.[2] One author,[3] possibly following others, translates it as 'splendor serpent' (𒈲 MUŠ is the Sumerian term for 'serpent'). The reading sir-ruššu is due to a mistransliteration of the cuneiform in early Assyriology.[4]


Mušḫuššu already appears in Sumerian religion and art, as in the "Libation vase of Gudea", dedicated to Ningishzida by the Sumerian ruler Gudea (21st century BCE short chronology).[1][5]

The mušḫuššu is the sacred animal of Marduk and his son Nabu during the Neo-Babylonian Empire. The dragon Mušḫuššu, whom Marduk once vanquished, became his symbolic animal and servant.[6] It was taken over by Marduk from Tishpak, the local god of Eshnunna.[7]

The constellation Hydra was known in Babylonian astronomical texts as Bašmu, 'the Serpent' (𒀯𒈲, MUL.dMUŠ). It was depicted as having the torso of a fish, the tail of a snake, the forepaws of a lion, the hind legs of an eagle, wings, and a head comparable to the mušḫuššu.[8][9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Wiggermann, F. A. M. (1992). Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts. Brill Publishers. p. 156. ISBN 978-90-72371-52-2.
  2. ^ "The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature". The ETCSL project, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford. 2006-12-19. Retrieved 2014-08-25.
  3. ^ Costello, Peter (1974). In Search of Lake Monsters. Coward, McCann & Geoghegan – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ Oppenheim, A. Leo; Reiner, Erica, eds. (1977). The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (PDF). Volume 10: M, Part II. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Oriental Institute. p. 270. ISBN 0-918986-16-8.
  5. ^ Wiggermann, F. A. M. (1992). Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts. Brill Publishers. p. 168. ISBN 978-90-72371-52-2.
  6. ^ Wiggermann, F. A. M. (1992). Mesopotamian Protective Spirits: The Ritual Texts. Brill Publishers. p. 157. ISBN 978-90-72371-52-2.
  7. ^ Bienkowski, Piotr; Millard, Alan Ralph (2000). Dictionary of the Ancient Near East. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-8122-3557-9.
  8. ^ Wiggerman, F. A. M. (1 January 1997). "Transtigridian Snake Gods". In Finkel, I. L.; Geller, M. J. (eds.). Sumerian Gods and their Representations. Cuneiform Monographs. 7. Gronigen, Netherlands: Styx Publications. pp. 34–35. ISBN 978-90-56-93005-9.
  9. ^ E. Weidner, Gestirn-Darstellungen auf Babylonischen Tontafeln (1967) Plates IX–X.


1.^ Similar to the Set animal in Egyptian mythology and the Qilin in Chinese mythology.

External linksEdit

The Excavations at Babylon