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Ninurta with his thunderbolts pursues Anzû stealing the Tablet of Destinies from Enlil's sanctuary (Austen Henry Layard Monuments of Nineveh, 2nd Series, 1853)

Anzû, before misread as (Sumerian: AN.ZUD2, AN.ZUD, AN.IM.DUGUD.MUŠEN, AN.IM.MI.MUŠEN; cuneiform: Cuneiforme Anzu.JPG AN.IM.MI-mušen), also known as Imdugud, is a lesser divinity or monster in several Mesopotamian religions. He was conceived by the pure waters of the Apsu and the wide Earth, or as son of Siris.[1] Anzû was depicted as a massive bird who can breathe fire and water, although Anzû is alternately depicted as a lion-headed eagle.

Stephanie Dalley, in Myths from Mesopotamia, writes that "the Epic of Anzu is principally known in two versions: an Old Babylonian version of the early second millennium [BC], giving the hero as Ningursu; and 'The Standard Babylonian' version, dating to the first millennium BC, which appears to be the most quoted version, with the hero as Ninurta". However, the Anzu character does appear more briefly in some other writings, as noted below.

Sumerian and Akkadian myth

Alabaster votive relief of Ur-Nanshe, king of Lagash, showing Anzû as a lion-headed eagle, ca. 2550–2500 BC; found at Tell Telloh the ancient city of Girsu, (Louvre)

In Sumerian and Akkadian mythology, Anzû is a divine storm-bird and the personification of the southern wind and the thunder clouds.[2] This demon—half man and half bird—stole the "Tablet of Destinies" from Enlil and hid them on a mountaintop. Anu ordered the other gods to retrieve the tablet, even though they all feared the demon. According to one text, Marduk killed the bird; in another, it died through the arrows of the god Ninurta.[3]

Inscribed head of a mace with Imdugud (Anzu) and Enannatum, the British Museum, London.

Frieze of Imdugud (Anzu) grasping a pair of deer, from Tell Al-Ubaid.

Anzu also appears in the story of "Inanna and the Huluppu Tree,"[4] which is recorded in the preamble to the Sumerian epic poem Gilgamesh, Enkidu, and the Netherworld.[5]

Anzu appears in the Sumerian Lugalbanda and the Anzud Bird (also called: The Return of Lugalbanda).

Babylonian and Assyrian myth

The shorter Old Babylonian version was found at Susa. Full version in Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, The Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others by Stephanie Dalley, page 222[6] and at The Epic of Anzû, Old Babylonian version from Susa, Tablet II, lines 1-83, read by Claus Wilcke.[7] The longer Late Assyrian version from Nineveh is most commonly called The Myth of Anzu. (Full version in Dalley, page 205).[8] An edited version is at Myth of Anzu.[9]

Also in Babylonian myth, Anzû is a deity associated with cosmogeny. Anzû is represented as stripping the father of the gods of umsimi (which is usually translated "crown" but in this case, as it was on the seat of Bel, it refers to the "ideal creative organ").[10][11] Regarding this, Charles Penglase writes that "Ham is the Chaldean Anzû, and both are cursed for the same allegorically described crime," which parallels the mutilation of Uranus by Cronus and of Osiris by Set.[1]

See also

  • Asakku, similar Mesopotamian deity
  • Griffin or griffon, lion-bird hybrid
  • Lamassu, Assyrian deity, bull/lion-eagle-human hybrid
  • Ziz, giant griffin-like bird in Jewish mythology
  • Zuism, Icelander protest against tax for religion
  • Hybrid creatures in mythology
  • List of hybrid creatures in mythology


  1. 1.0 1.1 Charles Penglase (4 October 2003). Greek Myths and Mesopotamia: Parallels and Influence in the Homeric Hymns and Hesiod. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-0-203-44391-0. 
  2. Jean Bottéro (1994) (in it). L'Oriente antico. Dai sumeri alla Bibbia. Edizioni Dedalo. pp. 246–256. ISBN 978882200535-9. 
  3. "Theft of Destiny". 
  4. "Myth of the Huluppu Tree". 
  5. "The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature". 
  6. Dalley, Stephanie (1 January 2000). "Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others". Oxford University Press. 
  7. "The Epic of Anzû, Old Babylonian version from Susa, Tablet II: BAPLAR". SOAS University of London. 
  8. Dalley, Stephanie (1 January 2000). "Myths from Mesopotamia: Creation, the Flood, Gilgamesh, and Others". Oxford University Press. 
  9. "Myth of Anzu". 
  10. George Smith (1878). The Chaldean Account of Genesis. Library of Alexandria. pp. 40–48. ISBN 9781465527141. 
  11. George Smith. The Chaldean Account of Genesis.  "The Sin of the God Zu" at "Sacred Texts" website.

External links