Lamassu: A winged deity to protect kings and gods
The winged protection deity, in Iraq mainly depicted as a bull, is a reminder of the Mesopotamian legacy of the Middle-East and used to be placed in front of important buildings or at the entrances of the king’s throne room.
Lamassu is a heavenly being of Mesopotamian mythology, with the head of a human (with horns and bull-ears) and the body of a bull (or sometimes a lion). Sometimes it is also depicted with wings.
Lamassu: Gatekeepers of ancient mythology
In Babylonian culture, the Lamassu was a protective being that used to make sure the safety of the household. Later it became one of the main protectors of high authorities such as kings and was placed at gates and entrances, making sure that no evil could pass them.
In Akkadian mythology, the Lamassu was also seen as Papsukkal, a god that served as gatekeeper but also as a messenger.
Entity of Duality
Am interesting feature of many Lamassu sculptures was the use of different visual angles making it look as if it was sitting if viewed from the front but seen as walking when seen from the side. This provided a more powerful stance. For this illusion, these distinct forms of Lamassu were built with five legs instead of four.
Another visual feat was the duality in their bodies, so that one side would look rather feline and the other one more like a bull. As bull and lion were the supposed most powerful animals of mythology, these two combined were signifiers of the king’s power, that, however, essentially served a higher god.
Despite Western interpretation, the Lamassu initially was not a bull with a man’s head but a female deity that used to introduce to and protect a higher deity. However, with time passing, the winged bull was more and more seen as a male being and lost it’s female attributes. Whether there is a connection with the bull headed minotaur or not is unknown.