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Title: Babylonian-Assyrian Birth-Omens and Their Cultural Significance
Author: Jastrow, Morris, 1861-1921
Language: English
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  Their Cultural Significance

  Morris Jastrow, jr.
  Ph. D. (Leipzig) Professor of Semitic Languages in the University
  of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)

  Gießen 1914
  Verlag von Alfred Töpelmann (vormals J. Ricker)

  Versuche und Vorarbeiten=

  begründet von
  Albrecht Dieterich und Richard Wünsch
  herausgegeben von
  Richard Wünsch und Ludwig Deubner
  in Münster i. W.      in Königsberg i. Pr.

  XIV. Band. 5. Heft



  Regius Professor of Medicine
  Oxford University

  This volume is dedicated
  as a mark of esteem and admiration.

  "Most fine, most honour'd, most renown'd."
    (King Henry V, 2d Part, Act IV, 5, 164.)


  Divination in Babylonia and Assyria                                1

  Three chief methods: hepatoscopy, astrology and birth-omens      1-6

  Spread of Hepatoscopy and Astrology to Hittites, Etruscans,
  Greeks and Romans and to China                                   3-4

  The Transition motif in religious rites and popular customs      5-6

  Omen collections in Ashurbanapal's Library                       6-7

  Birth-omen reports                                              9-12

  Animal Birth-omens                                             12-28

  Double foetus                                                  13-16

  Principles of interpretation                                   14-15

  Multiple births among ewes                                     17-18

  Malformation of ears                                           19-22

  Excess number of ears                                          20-22

  Ewe giving birth to young resembling lion                      23-26

  Ewe giving birth to young resembling other animals             27-28

  Human Birth-omens                                              28-41

  Twins                                                          29-30

  Monstrosities                                                     30

  Multiple births                                                   31

  Malformation of ears                                           32-33

  Malformation of mouth, nostrils, jaws, arms, lips, hand        33-34

  Malformation of anus, genital member, thigh, feet              35-36

  Principles of interpretation                                      36

  Misshapen embryos                                                 37

  Weaklings, cripples, deaf-mutes, still-births, dwarfs          38-39

  Talking infants, with bearded lips and teeth                      39

  Infants with animal features                    32. 33. 35-36. 40-41

  Study of Human Physiognomy among Greeks and Romans             43-44

  Resemblances between human and animal features                    45

  Porta's and Lavater's Views                                    45-48

  Study of Human Physiognomy based on birth-omens                49-50

  Birth-omens in Julius Obsequens                                50-52

  Birth-omens in Valerius Maximus                                   52

  Cicero on birth-omens                                          53-54

  Macrobius on birth-omens                                          55

  Birth-omens among Greeks and in Asia Minor                     56-58

  Birth-omens as basis of belief in fabulous and hybrid
  beings                                                         59-62

  Dragons, Hippocentaurs and hybrid creatures in
  Babylonian-Assyrian Literature and Art                         63-64

  Fabulous creatures of Greek Mythology and Birth-omens          64-66

  Egyptian sphinxes                                              67-70

  Totemism                                                          70

  Metamorphosis of human beings into animals and vice versa      70-72

  Talking animals in fairy tales                                    71

  History of monsters and persistency of belief in monsters      72-78

  Lycosthenes' work                                              73-75

  Summary                                                        78-80

  Index                                                          81-86

  "... they do observe
  unfather'd heirs and loathly births of natures"
                                        (King Henry V. 2nd part
                                           Act IV, 4, 121-122).


As a result of researches in the field of Babylonian-Assyrian divination,
now extending over a number of years[1], it may be definitely said that
apart from the large class of miscellaneous omens[2], the Babylonians and
Assyrians developed chiefly three methods of divination into more or less
elaborate systems--divination through the inspection of the liver of a
sacrificial animal or Hepatoscopy, through the observation of the
movements in the heavens or Astrology, (chiefly directed to the moon and
the planets but also to the sun and the prominent stars and
constellations), and through the observance of signs noted at birth in
infants and the young of animals or Birth-omens. Elsewhere[3], I have
suggested a general division of the various forms of divination methods
into two classes, voluntary and involuntary divination, meaning by the
former the case in which a sign is deliberately selected and then
observed, by the latter where the sign is not of your own choice but
forced upon your attention and calling for an interpretation. Hepatoscopy
falls within the former category[4], Astrology and Birth-omens in the

Each one of these three methods rests on an underlying well-defined theory
and is not the outcome of mere caprice or pure fancy, though of course
these two factors are also prominent. In the case of Hepatoscopy, we find
the underlying theory to have been the identification of the 'soul' or
vital centre of the sacrificial victim--always a sheep--with the deity to
whom the animal is offered,--at least to the extent that the two souls are
attuned to one another. The liver being, according to the view prevalent
among Babylonians and Assyrians as among other peoples of antiquity at a
certain stage of culture, the seat of the soul[5], the inspection of the
liver followed as the natural and obvious means of ascertaining the mind,
i. e., the will and disposition of the deity to whom an inquiry has been
put or whom one desired to consult. The signs on the liver--the size and
shape of the lobes, and of the gall bladder, the character or
peculiarities of the two appendices to the upper lobe, (the processus
pyramidalis and the processus papillaris), and the various markings on the
liver were noted, and on the basis of the two main principles conditioning
all forms of divination (1) association of ideas and (2) noting the
events that followed upon certain signs, a decision was reached as to
whether the deity was favorably or unfavorably disposed or, what amounted
to the same thing, whether the answer to the inquiry was favorable or

In the case of Astrology,--a relatively more advanced method of
divination,--the underlying theory rested on the supposed complete
correspondence between movements and phenomena in the heavens and
occurrences on earth. The gods, being identified with the heavenly
bodies,--with the moon, sun, planets, and fixed stars--or as we might also
put it, the heavenly bodies being personified as gods, the movements in
the heavens were interpreted as representing the activity of the gods
preparing the events on earth. Therefore, he who could read the signs in
the heavens aright would know what was to happen here below. Astrology
corresponded in a measure to the modern Weather Bureau in that it enabled
one to ascertain a little in advance what was certain to happen,
sufficiently so in order to be prepared for it. Compared with Hepatoscopy,
Astrology not only represents a form of divination that might be
designated as semi-scientific--only relatively scientific of course--but
also occupies a higher plane, because there was no attempt involved to
induce a deity unfavorably disposed to change his mind. The signs were
there; they pointed unmistakably to certain occurrences on earth that were
certain to occur and it was the task of the diviner--the =bârû= or
'inspector' as the Babylonian called him--to indicate whether what the
gods were preparing would be beneficial or harmful. Both Hepatoscopy and
Astrology as developed by the Babylonians and Assyrians =bârû=-priests
exerted a wide influence, the former spreading to the Hittites and
Etruscans and through the one or the other medium to Greeks and Romans[6],
while Babylonian-Assyrian Astrology passing to the Greeks became the basis
for Graeco-Roman and mediaeval Astrology, profoundly influencing the
religious thought of Europe[7] and in a modified form surviving even to
our own days. The chain of evidence has recently been completed[8] to
prove the direct transfer of the cuneiform astrological literature to
Greek astrologers and astronomers. The possibility also of a spread or at
least of a secondary influence of both systems to the distant East is also
to be considered. In fact considerable evidence is now available to show
that Babylonian-Assyrian astrological notions and in part also
astronomical data spread to China[9].


The observation of signs observed in young animals and in infants at the
time of birth constitutes a third division of Babylonian-Assyrian
divination, quite equal in prominence to Hepatoscopy and Astrology. Here
too we are justified in seeking for some rational or quasi-rational basis
for the importance attached by Babylonians and Assyrians, and as we shall
see by other nations as well, to anything of a noteworthy or unusual
character observed at the moment that a new life was ushered into the
world. The mystery of life made as deep an impression upon primitive man
and upon ancient peoples as it does on the modern scientist, who endeavors
with his better equipment and enriched by the large experience of past
ages, to penetrate to the very source of life. A new life issuing from
another life--what could be stranger, what more puzzling, what more
awe-inspiring? If we bear in mind that there is sufficient evidence to
warrant us in saying that among peoples in a primitive state of culture,
the new life was not associated with the sexual act[10], the mystery must
have appeared still more profound. The child or the young animal was
supposed to be due to the action of some spirit or demon that had found
its way into the mother, just as death was supposed to be due to some
malicious demon that had driven the spirit of life out of the body. The
many birth customs found in all parts of the world[11], are associated
with this impression of mystery made by the new life; they centre largely
round the idea of protection to the mother and her offspring at a critical
period. The rejoicing is tempered by the fear of the demons who were
supposed to be lurking near to do mischief to the new life and to the one
who brought it forth. The thought is a natural one, for the young life
hangs in the balance, while that of the mother appears to be positively
threatened. All bodily suffering and all physical ailments being ascribed
to the influence of bad demons, or to the equally malevolent influence of
persons who could by their control of the demons or in some other way
throw a spell over the individual, Birth, Puberty, Marriage and Death as
the four periods in life which may be regarded as critical and
transitional are marked by popular customs and religious rites that follow
mankind from primitive times down to our own days. A modern scholar, Van
Gennep, who has recently gathered these customs in a volume and
interpreted them, calls his work 'Rites de Passage', i. e., customs
associated with the four periods of transition from one stage to the other
and which survive in advanced forms of faith as Baptism, Confirmation,
Marriage ceremonies and Funeral rites, just as the chief festivals in all
religions are the 'Rites de Passage' of nature--associated with the
transition periods of the year, with the vernal equinox, the summer
solstice, the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice or, expressed in
agricultural terms, with sowing time, with blossoming or early harvest
time, with the later harvest time and with the period of decay.

The significance attached to birth omens is thus merely a phase of the
ceremonies attendant upon the passage of the new-born from its mysterious
hiding place to the light. The analogy between the new life and the
processes of nature is complete, for the plant, too, after being hidden in
the earth, which is pictured in the religions of antiquity as a 'great
mother', comes to the surface.


The field of observation in the case of the new-born among mankind and in
the animal world is large--very large, and yet definitely bounded. Normal
conditions were naturally without special significance, but any deviation
from the normal was regarded as a sign calling for interpretation. Such
deviations covered a wide and almost boundless range from peculiar
formations of any part of the body or of the features, to actual
malformations and monstrosities. The general underlying principle was, the
greater the abnormality, the greater the significance attached to it; and
as in the case of the movements in the heaven, the unusual was regarded as
an indication of some imminent unusual occurrence. We are fortunate in
possessing among the tablets of Ashurbanapal's library, unearthed by
Layard just fifty years ago and which is still our main source for the
Babylonian-Assyrian religious literature, many hundreds of texts
furnishing lists of birth omens and their interpretation[12], just as we
have many hundreds of texts dealing with liver divination[13], and even
more dealing with Astrology[14], apart from the many hundreds of texts
dealing with miscellaneous omens of which up to the present only a small
proportion has been published[15]. From this division of the great
collection gathered by Ashurbanapal's scribes chiefly from the temple
archives of Babylonia, it appears that the =bârû=-priests made extensive
collections of all kinds of omens which served the purpose of official
hand-books to be consulted in case of questions put to the priests as to
the significance of any particular phenomenon, and which were also used as
textbooks for the training of the aspirants to the priesthood.

Confining ourselves to the birth-omens[16], the first question that arises
is whether the signs entered are based on actual occurrences or are
fanciful. In the case of many entries, as will presently be made evident,
the anomalies noted rest upon =actual= observation, but with the desire of
the priests to embrace in their collections all possible contingencies so
as to be prepared for any question that might at any time arise, a large
number of signs were entered which the diviners thought _might_ occur. In
other words, in order to be on the safe side the diviners allowed their
fancy free rein and registered many things that we can positively say
never did occur and never could occur[17]. With the help of hand-books on
human and animal pathology, we can without difficulty distinguish between
two classes. Thus, twins being regarded as significant and triplets even
more so, the priests did not stop at this point but provided for cases
when four, five six up to eight and more infants were born at one
time[18]. Again in regard to animals, inasmuch as bitches and sows may
throw a litter of ten and even more, the priests in their collections
carried the number up to thirty[19] which is, of course, out of the
question. For sheep and goats the number was extended up to ten, though it
probably never happened that more than triplets were ever born to an ewe
or to a mother-goat. Even twins are rare, and I am told that there are few
authenticated cases of triplets.

Malformations among infants and the young of animals were of course
plentiful, but here too the anomalies and monstrosities are not as
numerous and varied as were entered in the handbooks of the Babylonian and
Assyrian diviners. The factor of fancy to which I have referred enters
even more largely in the entries of many actual malformations, through the
assumption of a more or less fanciful resemblance of some feature or of
some part of an infant or of the young of an animal with the features or
parts of some animal.

An excess number of limbs--three legs or four arms in the case of an
infant, or five or six legs in the case of a lamb, puppy, pig or foal, or
two heads--is not uncommon. On this basis the priests entered cases of
excess legs and arms and heads up to nine and more[20]; and similarly in
regard to ears and eyes.

That, however, despite the largely fanciful character of the entries in
the omen texts, these collections not only rested on a firm basis of
actual observation, but served a practical purpose is shown by the
examples that we have of official reports made by the =bârû=-priests of
human and animal anomalies, with the interpretations attached that
represent quotations from the collections[21]. A report of this kind in
reference to an animal monstrosity reads in part as follows[22]:

     'If it is a double foetus, but with one head, a double spine, two
     tails and one body, the land that is now ruled by two will be ruled
     by one person.

     If it is a double foetus with one head, the land will be safe.'

We have here two quotations from a text furnishing all kinds of
peculiarities connected with a double foetus and we are fortunate in
having the text from which the quotations are made[23]. Evidently an ewe
has given birth to a monstrosity such as is here described, the case has
been reported to the diviners who furnish the king[24] with this report,
indicating that since the monstrosity has only one head, what might have
been an unfavorable omen is converted into a favorable one.

Another report[25] regarding a monstrosity born of a sow reads:

     'If a foetus has eight feet and two tails, the ruler will acquire
     universal sway. A butcher, Uddanu by name, reported as follows: A sow
     gave birth (to a young) having eight feet and two tails. I have
     preserved it in salt and kept it in the house. From

Here we have the name of the =bârû=-priest who made the report expressly
indicated. The report begins with a quotation from the collections,
indicating the interpretation to be put upon the occurrence, after which
the report of the actual event that took place is given in detail; and
Nergal-eṭir is careful to add that he has preserved the specimen as a
proof of its occurrence, precisely as to-day such a monstrosity would be
bottled and kept in a pathological museum. In another report[27]
containing various quotations from the collections of birth-omens and
closing with one in regard to a mare that had given birth to two colts,
one male and one female, with smooth hair over the ears, over the feet,
mouth and hoofs, which is interpreted as a favorable sign[28], the one who
makes the report adds 'Whether this is so, I shall ascertain. It will be
investigated according to instructions'. Evidently, the facts had not been
definitely ascertained and the diviner, while furnishing the
interpretations for various possibilities, promises to inform himself
definitely and report again as to the exact nature of the unusual
occurrence. Frequently these omen reports contain interesting and
important allusions to historical events which are then embodied in the
collections[29]. In fact the event which followed upon any unusual or
striking sign, whether in the heavens or among the newly born or what not,
was carefully noted and on the principle of =post hoc propter hoc= was
regarded as the event presaged by the sign in question. The definite
indication of the interpretation to be put upon the omen itself was
supplied by the actual event that followed upon the appearance of some
sign, though it was not supposed that the sign would always be followed by
the same occurrence. The point to which attention was primarily directed
was whether the occurrence was of a favorable or an unfavorable nature. If
favorable, the conclusion was drawn that the sign was a favorable one and
hence in the event of its recurrence some favorable incident might be
expected according to existing circumstances--victory in an impending
battle, suppression of an uprising, recovery of some member of the royal
household who may be lying ill, good crops at the approaching harvest or
whatever the case may be--or in general a favorable answer to any question
put by a ruler. The same would apply to a combination of signs, one of the
fundamental principles of divination being--once favorable, always

Among the birth-omen reports we have one containing a historical reference
of unusual interest[30].

     'If the foetus is male and female--omen of Azag-Bau who ruled the
     land. The king's country will be seized.

     If a foetus is male and female, without testicles, a son of the
     palace[31] will rule the land or will assert himself against the

We must assume in this case that a monstrosity has been born, having
partly male and partly female organs. The priest by way of interpretation
notes a series of signs registered in the collections, all prognosticating
an abnormal state of affairs--a woman on the throne, captivity, seizure
of the throne by an usurper and revolt. We frequently find in the
collections several interpretations registered in this way,--a valuable
indication of the manner in which these collections were compiled by the
priests from a variety of documents before them. The name of this female
ruler, hitherto known only from this report and from a list of proper
names in which Azag-Bau occurred, has now turned up in an important list
of early dynasties ruling in the Euphratean Valley, discovered and
published by Scheil[32]. We may conclude, therefore, that at the time that
Azag-Bau sat on the throne or shortly before, such a monstrosity actually
came to light. As an unusual occurrence it presaged something unusual, and
was naturally associated with the extraordinary circumstance of a woman
mounting the throne. Azag-Bau according to the newly discovered list is
the founder of a dynasty ruling in Erech as a centre and whose date
appears to be somewhere between 2800 and 3000 B. C.--possibly even
earlier. As a founder of a dynasty that overthrew a previous one, Azag-Bau
must have engaged in hostilities with other centres, so that the second
interpretation that 'the king's country will be seized' may well refer to
some historical event of the same general period. Be that as it may, the
important point for us is that we have here another proof of the practical
purpose served by the observation of birth-omens.


Passing now to some illustrations of birth-omens from the collections of
the =bârû=-priests, let us first take up some texts dealing with omens
from the young of animals. Naturally, the animals to which attention was
directed were the domesticated ones--sheep, goats, cows, dogs, horses and
pigs. Among these the most prominent is the sheep, corresponding to the
significance attached to the sheep in liver divination where it is, in
fact, the only animal whose liver is read as a means of forecasting the
future[33]. As a result of this particularly prominent position taken by
the sheep in birth-omens, the word =isbu=, designating the normal or
abnormal foetus--human or animal--when introduced without further
qualification generally indicates the foetus of a sheep[34].

A text[35] dealing with a double foetus, i. e., of a sheep[36], reads in
part as follows:

     'If it is a double foetus with slits (?) on the head and tail, the
     land will be secure.

     If it is a double foetus and enclosed[37], confusion in the country,
     the dynasty [will come to an end].

     If it is a double foetus, encompassed like an enclosure, the king
     will [subdue ?] the land.

     If it is a double foetus and encompassed like an enclosure, confusion
     in the land, hostilities [in the country].

     If it is a double foetus, encompassed like an enclosure, with slits
     on the body, end of the dynasty, confusion and disturbances in the

     If it is a double foetus, encompassed like an enclosure, with twisted
     necks and only one head, the land will remain under one head.

                  *       *       *       *       *

     If it is a double foetus, the heads enclosed, with eight legs and
     only one spine, the land will be visited by a destructive storm[38].

     If it is a double foetus with only one head, the land will be secure,
     the ruler will prevail against his enemy, peace and prosperity in the

     If it is a double foetus with one head, a double spine, eight feet,
     two necks and two tails, the king will enlarge his land.

     If it is a double foetus with one head, double spine, two tails and
     one body, then the land that is ruled by two will be ruled by one.

     If it is a double foetus with only one head and one spine, eight
     feet, two necks and two tails, the king will enlarge his land.

     If it is a double foetus with only one neck, the ruler will enlarge
     his land.

     If it is a double foetus with only one spine, the ruler will enlarge
     his land.

     If it is a double foetus with only one mouth, the land will remain
     under the command of the king.

     If it is a double foetus with only one breast, the land will be
     enlarged, rule of a legitimate king.

In order to grasp the principles underlying the interpretation of such
omens, we must take as our starting point the conceptions connected with
the various parts of the body. Bearing in mind that the omens deal
primarily with public affairs and the general welfare and only to a
limited extent with private and individual concerns[40], the head of the
foetus by a natural association stands for the ruler or occasionally for
the owner of the mother lamb. One head to the double foetus, therefore,
indicates unity--a single rule--whereas two heads point to disruption of
some kind. If the double foetus is so entwined as to be shut in within an
enclosure, a similarly natural association of ideas would lead to the
country being shut in, in a state of confusion, the land in a condition of
subjugation or the like. On the other hand, if merely the heads are
enclosed so as to give the impression of unity and the rest of the two
bodies is disentangled, the unfavorable sign is converted into a favorable
one. A second principle involved in the interpretation results in a more
favorable conclusion if the double foetus shows less complications. So, a
single neck or a single spine or a single breast or a single mouth point
again, like a single head, towards unity and therefore to flourishing
conditions in the land. In the case of legs and tails, to be sure, the
conditions seem to be reversed--the eight legs and two tails and two necks
with one head pointing to enlargement of the land, whereas a double foetus
with only six or five feet forebodes some impending misfortune[41].

Let us proceed further with this text.

     If it is a double foetus, one well formed and the second issuing from
     the mouth of the first[42], the king will be killed and his army will
     [revolt ?], his oil plantation and his dwelling will be destroyed[43].

     If it is a double foetus, the second lying at the tail [of the
     first], with two breasts and two tails, there will be no unity in the

     If it is a double foetus, and the second lies at the tail of the
     first and enclosed and both are living, ditto.

     If it is a double foetus, and one rides over the other, victory,
     throne will support throne.

     If it is a double foetus and one rides over the other and there is
     only one head, the power of the king will conquer the enemy's land.

     If it is a double foetus, one above and one below, with only one
     spine and eight feet, four [Variant: 'two'] ears, and two tails,
     throne will support throne.

     If it is a double foetus with the faces downward, approach of the son
     of the king, who will take the throne of his father, or a second son
     of the king will die, or a third son of the king will die.

                  *       *       *       *       *

     If it is a double foetus with five feet, serious hostility in the
     country, the house of the man will perish, his stall[45] will be

     If it is a double foetus with six feet, the population will be
     diminished, confusion in the land.

     If it is a foetus within a foetus, the king will weaken his enemy,
     his possessions will be brought into the palace[46].

                  *       *       *       *       *

     If a foetus gives birth to a second foetus[47], the king will assert
     himself against his opponent.

It will be observed that in quite a number of cases two alternative
interpretations are given, one of an official character referring to the
public welfare, or to occurrences in the royal household[48], the other of
an unofficial character bearing on the welfare of the individual to whom
the mother lamb that had produced the monstrosity belonged. One foetus
issuing from the other, or one within the other, appears to have been a
favorable or an unfavorable sign, according to the position of the second.
If the one lay above the other, the association of ideas pointed to a
control of the ruler over his enemy. In some cases, the association of
ideas leading to the interpretation is not clear; and we must perhaps
assume in such instances an entry of an event that =actually= occurred
after the birth of the monstrosity in question. A certain measure of
arbitrariness in the interpretations also constitutes a factor to be taken
into consideration; and the last thing that we need to expect in any
system of divination is a =consistent= application of any principle

The text passes on to an enumeration of the case of an ewe giving birth to
more than two lambs. The 'official' interpretations are throughout
unfavorable[49], and the priests were quite safe in their entries which
were purely arbitrary in these cases, since such multiple births never
occurred. It is worth while to quote these interpretations as an
illustration of the fanciful factor that, as already indicated, played a
not insignificant part in the system unfolded.

     If an ewe gives birth to three (lambs), the prosperity of the country
     will be annulled, but things will go well with the owner of the ewe,
     his stall will be enlarged.

     If an ewe gives birth to three fully developed (lambs), the dynasty
     will meet with opposition, approach of an usurper, the country will
     be destroyed.

     If an ewe gives birth to four, the land will encounter hostility, the
     produce of the land will be swept away, approach of an usurper,
     destruction in the land.

     If an ewe gives birth to four fully developed lambs, [locusts (?)]
     will come and [destroy] the country.

     If an ewe gives birth to four, approach of an usurper, the country
     will be destroyed.

     If an ewe gives birth to five, destruction will ravage the country,
     the owner of the house will die, his stall will be destroyed.

     If an ewe gives birth to five, one with the head of a bull[50], one
     with a lion-head, one with a jackal-head, one with a dog-head and one
     with the head of a lamb[51], devastation will take place in the

     If an ewe gives birth to six, confusion among the population.

     If an ewe gives birth to seven,--three male and four female--, the
     king will perish.

     If an ewe gives birth to eight, approach of an usurper, the tribute
     of the king will be withheld.

     If an ewe gives birth to nine, end of the dynasty.

     If an ewe gives birth to ten, a weakling will acquire universal

The general similarity of the interpretations may be taken as a further
indication that the =bârû=-priests were simply giving their fancy free
scope in making prognostications for conditions that could never arise;
nor is it of serious moment that in the case of triplets the
interpretation is favorable to the owner of the ewe, or that in the case
of ten lambs, even the official interpretation is not distinctly
unfavorable--in view of the purely 'academic' character of such entries.

An extract from a long text[53] furnishing omens derived from all kinds of
peculiarities and abnormal phenomena noted on the ears of an
animal--primarily again the sheep, though no doubt assumed to be
applicable to other domesticated animals--will throw further light on the
system of divination devised by the =bârû=-priests, and will also
illustrate the extravagant fancy of the priests in their endeavor to make
their collections provide for all possible and indeed for many impossible

     If a foetus[54] lacks the right ear, the rule of the king will come
     to an end, his palace will be destroyed, overthrow of the elders of
     the city, the king will be without counsellors, confusion in the
     land, diminution of the cattle in the land, the enemy will acquire

     If the foetus lacks a left ear, a god will harken to the prayer of
     the king, the king will take the land of his enemy, the palace of the
     enemy will be destroyed, the enemy will be without a counsellor, the
     cattle of the enemy's country will be diminished, the enemy will lose

     If the right ear of the foetus is detached, the stall[56] will be

     If the left ear of the foetus is detached, the enemy's stall will be

     If the right ear of the foetus is split, the herd will be destroyed
     or the leaders of the city will leave (it)[57].

     If the left ear of the foetus is split, the herd will be enlarged,
     the leaders of the enemy's country will leave (it).

     If the right ear of the foetus is split and swollen with clay, the
     country [will have a rival].

     If the left ear of the foetus is split and swollen with clay, the
     enemy's country will have a rival.

     If the right ear of the foetus is destroyed, the stall will be
     enlarged, the stall of the enemy will be diminished.

     If the outside of the right ear is destroyed, the land will yield to
     the enemy's land.

     If the right ear of the foetus lies near the cheek[58], the enemy
     will prevail against the power of the king, the king will be without
     counsellors, a ruler will not inhabit the land, or the son of the
     king of universal sway[59] will be king.

     If the left ear of the foetus lies near the cheek, an enemy will be
     installed in the royal palace.

     If the right ear of the foetus lies near the jaw, birth of a
     demon[60] in my land, or in the house of the man[61].

     If the left ear of the foetus lies near the jaw, birth of a demon in
     the enemy's land, or the land of the enemy will perish.

The guiding principle of the interpretation in these instances is the
natural association of the right as your side and the left with the
enemy's side. A defect on the right side is unfavorable to you, i. e., to
the king or to the country or to the individual in whose household the
birth occurs, while the same defect on the left side is unfavorable to the
enemy and, therefore, favorable to you. The principle is quite
consistently carried out even to the point that if the sign itself is
favorable, it is only when it is found on the right side that it is
favorable to you, while its occurrence on the left side is favorable to
the enemy.

Defects of any kind appear to be unfavorable, whereas an excess of organs
and parts are in many instances favorable, though with a considerable
measure of arbitrariness.

     If the foetus has two ears on the right side and none on the left,
     the boundary city of the enemy will become subject to you.

     If the foetus has two ears on the left side and none on the right,
     your boundary city will become subject to the enemy.

     If the foetus has two ears on the right side and one on the left, the
     land will remain under the control of the ruler.

     If the foetus has two ears on the left side and one on the right, the
     land will revolt.

     If within the right ear of the foetus a second ear[62] appears, the
     ruler will have counsellors.

     If within the left ear of the foetus there is a second ear, the
     counsellors of the ruler will advise evilly.

     If behind the right ear of the foetus there is a second ear, the
     ruler will have counsellors.

     If behind the left ear of the foetus there is a second ear, confusion
     in the land, the land will be destroyed[63].

                  *       *       *       *       *

     If a foetus has [four] ears, a king of universal sway will be in the

     [If a foetus has four ears], two lying in front (and) two in back,
     the ruler will acquire possessions in a strange country[64].

                  *       *       *       *       *

     If behind the right ear, there are two ears, visible on the
     outside[65], the inhabitants of the boundary city will become subject
     to the enemy.

     If behind the left ear there are two ears visible on the outside, the
     inhabitants of the boundary city of the enemy will become subject to

     If a foetus has three ears, one on the left side and two on the right
     side, the angry gods will return to the country.

     If a foetus has three ears, one on the left side and two on the
     right, the gods will kill within the country.

     If within the right ear of a foetus there are three ears with the
     inner sides well formed, the opponent will conclude peace with the
     king whom he fears, the army of the ruler will dwell in peace with

     If within the left ear of a foetus there are three ears with the
     inner sides well formed, thy ally will become hostile.

     If behind each of the two ears there are three ears visible on the
     outside, confusion in the land, the counsel of the land will be
     discarded, one land after the other will revolt.

     If within each of two ears there are three ears visible on the inner
     side, things will go well with the ruler's army.

     If within each of the two ears there are three ears, visible on the
     outside and the inside, the army of the ruler will forsake him and
     his land will revolt.

     If within each of the two ears there are three ears, visible on the
     outside and the inside, the army of the ruler will forsake him and
     his land will revolt.

     If the ears of a foetus are choked up[66], in place of a large king a
     small king will be in the land.

In general, therefore, an excess number of ears points to enlargement,
increased power, stability of the government and the like; and this is
probably due in part to the association of wisdom and understanding with
the ear in Babylonian[67], for as a general thing an excess of organs or
of parts of the body is an unfavorable sign, because a deviation from the

In the same way as in the case of the ears, we have birth-omen texts
dealing with the head, lips, mouth, eyes, feet, joints, tail, genital
organs, hair, horns and other parts of the body[68]. In many of these
texts dealing with all kinds of peculiar formations and abnormalities in
the case of one organ or one part of the body or the other, a comparison
is instituted between the features or parts of one animal with those of
another and the interpretation is guided by the association of ideas with
the animal compared. A moment's reflection will show the importance of
this feature in extending the field of observation almost =ad infinitum=.
A lamb born with a large head might suggest a lion, a small long head that
of a dog, or a very broad face might suggest the features of a bull. From
comparisons of this kind, the step would be a small one to calling a lamb
with lion-like features, a lion, or a lamb with features recalling those
of a dog, a dog and so on through the list, the interpretations being
chosen through the ideas associated with the animal in question. A text of
this kind[69], of which we have many, reads in part as follows.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion, the abandoned weapons will make an
     attack (again), the king will be without a rival.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion, but with a head of a 'rain bow'
     bird[70], the son will seize the throne of his father.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion, but (some of) the features are
     (also) human, the power of the king will conquer a powerful country.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion, but (some of) the features are those
     of a lamb, the young cattle will not prosper.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion, but (some of) the features are those
     of an ass, severe famine will occur in the country.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion, but (some of) the features are those
     of a dog, Nergal[71] will cause destruction.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion but (some of) the features are those
     of a =khupipi=[72], the ruler will be without a rival and will
     destroy the land of his enemy.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion, but with the mouth of a wild cow,
     the rule of the king will not prosper.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion but with the mouth of a bull, famine
     will ensue.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion with the horny exuberance of an ibex
     on its face, prices will be lowered[73].

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion with the horny exuberance of an ibex
     on its face and if the eyes are open[74], prices will be high.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion with fatty flesh on the nose, the
     land will be well nourished.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion, and the right temple is covered with
     fatty flesh, the land will be richly blessed.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion, and the left temple is covered with
     fatty flesh,--rivalry.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion, and it is covered all over with
     fatty flesh, the king will be without a rival.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion but without a head[75], death of the

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion with the gorge torn off[76],
     destruction of the land, the mistress[77] will die.

     If an ewe gives birth to a lion with the gorge torn off and a
     mutilated tail[78], the land [will be destroyed (?)]

From texts like these it would appear that the phrase of 'an ewe giving
birth to a lion' had acquired a purely conventional force to describe a
lamb whose head or general features suggested those of a lion. It may have
come to be used indeed for a newly born lamb of unusually large
proportions. Hence one could combine with the description of a lion-lamb
such further specifications as that it also suggested human features, or
looked like an ass or a dog, or that while it came under the category of a
lion-lamb, it yet had some of the features of a normal lamb. At all events
we must not credit the Babylonians or Assyrians with so absurd a belief as
that an ewe could actually produce a lion. Such a supposition is at once
disposed of when we come to other texts where we find entries of an ewe
producing a whole series of animals--a jackal, dog, fox, panther, hyena,
gazelle, etc. and where we must perforce assume resemblances between a
young lamb and the animals in question and not any extravagant views of
possible cross-breeding[79]. To clinch the matter, we have quite a number
of passages in which the preposition 'like' is introduced[80] instead of
the direct equation, showing that when the texts speak of an ewe giving
birth to a lion, a jackal, a dog, etc., the priests had in mind merely a
resemblance as the basis of such statements.

The general idea associated with the lion in divination texts is that of
power, success, increase and the like. The sign, therefore, of an ewe
producing a lion is a favorable one; it is only through attendant
circumstances that the character of the sign is transformed into an
unfavorable or partly unfavorable omen. So in case the lion-lamb has a
head suggestive of the variegated colors of the rainbow bird, the sign
still points to power, but to a power exercised by the crown prince
against the father. If some of the features suggest those of an ass or of
a dog or of a pig, the ideas associated with these animals convert what
would otherwise have been a favorable sign into an unfavorable one. The
mouth of a wild cow or of a bull, thus interfering with the complete
identification of the young lamb as a lion-lamb, similarly, brings about
an unfavorable interpretation. Fatty flesh by a natural association points
to increased prosperity, while mutilations of the head, tail or of any
other part naturally carry with them unfavorable prognostications.

It is interesting to see from a long list of comparisons of a new-born
lamb with all kinds of animals[81] the extent to which the association of
ideas connected with the animals in question is carried.

     If an ewe gives birth to a dog ... the king's land will revolt.

     If an ewe gives birth to a beaver[82] (?), the king's land will
     experience misery.

     If an ewe gives birth to a fox, Enlil[83] will maintain the rule of
     the legitimate king for many years, or[84] the king will strengthen
     his power.

     If an ewe gives birth to a Mukh-Dul[85], the enemy will carry away
     the inhabitants of the land, the land will despite its strength go to
     ruin, the dynasty will be opposed, confusion in the land.

     If an ewe gives birth to a panther, the kingdom of the ruler will
     secure universal sway.

     If an ewe gives birth to a hyena (?), approach of Elam.

     If an ewe gives birth to a gazelle, the days of the ruler through the
     grace of the gods will be long, or the ruler will have warriors.

     If an ewe gives birth to a hind, the son of the king will seize his
     father's throne, or the approach of Subartu will overthrow the land.

     If an ewe gives birth to a roebuck, the son of the king will seize
     his father's throne, or destruction of cattle[86].

     If an ewe gives birth to a wild cow, revolt will prevail in the

     If an ewe gives birth to an ox, the weapons of the ruler will prevail
     over the weapons of the enemy.

     If an ewe gives birth to an ox that has _ganni_[87], the ruler will
     weaken the land of his enemy.

     If an ewe gives birth to an ox with two tails, omen of Ishbi-Ura[88],
     who was without a rival.

     If an ewe gives birth to a cow, the king will die, another king will
     draw nigh and divide the country.

One might have supposed that such omens represent a purely imaginative
theoretical factor, but the introduction of the historical reference
proves conclusively that the Babylonians and Assyrians attached an
importance to the fancied resemblance of an animal to an other, and that
in the case of such strange statements as that an ewe gives birth to one
of a series of all kinds of animals, it is this fancied resemblance that
forms the basis and the point of departure for the interpretation.


If, now, we turn to birth-omens in the case of infants, we find in the
omen texts the same two classes, those in which all kinds of abnormalities
and malformations are registered, and such in which the fancied
resemblance of the new-born infant to some animal, or of some features of
an infant to those of an animal is introduced as a factor. The principles
underlying the interpretation, so far as they can be recognized, are
naturally the same as in the case of birth-omens for the young of
domesticated animals. A few illustrations will make this clear.

A text[89] dealing with twins, and passing on to multiple births up to
eight, reads in part as follows:

     If a woman gives birth to two boys, famine will prevail in the land,
     the interior of the country will witness misfortune, and misfortune
     will enter the house of their father[90].

     If a woman gives birth to two boys with one body--no union between
     man and wife, [that house will be reduced][91].

     If a woman gives birth to two boys of normal appearance, that
     house[92] ...

     If a woman gives birth to a boy and a girl, ill luck will enter the
     land, the land will be diminished.

     If a woman gives birth to twins united at the spine, with the faces
     [back to back ?], the gods will forsake the country, the king and his
     son will abandon the city.

     If a woman gives birth to twins without noses and feet, the land
     [will be diminished][93].

     If a woman gives birth to twins in an abnormal condition, the land
     will perish, the house of the man will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth to twins united at the sides[94], the land
     ruled by one will be controlled by two.

     If a woman gives birth to twins united at the sides, (and) the right
     hand of the one lying to the right is missing, the weapon of the
     enemy will kill me, the land will be diminished, weakness will bring
     about defeat and my army will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth to twins united at the sides, and the left
     hand of the one lying to the left is missing[95] ...

     If a woman gives birth to twins united at the sides and the right
     hands are missing--attack, the enemy will destroy the produce of the

     If a woman gives birth to twins united at the sides, and the left
     hands are missing, [the produce of the enemy's land will be

     If a woman gives birth to twins, united at the sides, and the right
     foot of the one lying to the right is missing, the enemy will abandon
     the rest of my land, the land will be captured.

     If a woman gives birth to twins united at the sides, and the left
     foot of the one lying to the left, is missing, I will [abandon] the
     rest of the enemy's land, [and the land of the enemy will be

     If a woman gives birth to twins united at the sides, and the right
     feet are missing, the seat of the country[98] will be overthrown and

     If a woman gives birth to twins united at the sides and the left feet
     are missing, the seat of the enemy's land [will be overthrown and

     If a woman gives birth to two girls, the house will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth to two girls and they die[99] ...

     If a woman gives birth to three well developed girls, the land of the
     ruler will be enlarged.

     If a woman gives birth to two girls with one body, [no union] between
     man [and wife, the land will be diminished][100].

     If a woman gives birth to two girls of normal appearance ...[101].

     If a woman gives birth to three boys, distress will seize the land

     If a woman gives birth to [four (?)] boys, [destruction in the

Through another fragment[103], the list of multiple births is carried up
to eight--a perfectly safe procedure on the part of the =bârû=-priests,
since it is unlikely that the case of more than four births at one time
ever occurred in the whole scope of Babylonian-Assyrian history. The
interpretations in the case of more than triplets appear to have been
consistently unfavorable. Even twins, as is apparent from the above
entries, were generally regarded as unfavorable, because of the deviation
from the normal involved; and this was certainly the case when monstrous
factors were connected with the double birth--the two united at the backs
or at the sides--or when the twins lacked a part of the body such as
noses, hands or feet. The fundamental distinction between the right side
as representing your side and the left as the enemy's side intervenes to
differentiate between the application of the omen to the king or to the
country on the one hand, and to the enemy or his country on the other.

Corresponding to the text above discussed[104], in which interpretations
are offered for all kinds of malformations or peculiarities, in connection
with the ears of newly-born animals, we have a text[105] furnishing omens
in the same way in the case of human births.

     If a woman gives birth, (and the child has) a lion's ear, a powerful
     king will rule in the land.

     If a woman gives birth, and the right ear[106] is missing, the life
     of the ruler will come to an end.

     If a woman gives birth, and the left ear is missing, the life of the
     king will be long.

     If a woman gives birth, and both ears are missing, famine will
     prevail in the country, and the land will be diminished.

     If a woman gives birth, and the right ear is small, the house of the
     man will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth, and the left ear is small, the house of the
     man will be enlarged.

     If a woman gives birth, and both ears are small, the house of the man
     will be overthrown.

     If a woman gives birth, and the right ear is detached[107], the house
     of the man will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth, and the left ear is detached, the house of
     the opponent will be destroyed, the house of the man[108] will be

     If a woman gives birth, and both ears are detached, the house of the
     man will encounter misfortune.

     If a woman gives birth, and the right ear reaches to the cheek, a
     weakling will be born in the man's house.

     If a woman gives birth, and the left ear reaches to the cheek, a
     strong one will be born in the man's house[109].

     If a woman gives birth, and both ears reach to the cheek, that land
     will be destroyed, protection will be withdrawn.

     If a woman gives birth, and the right ear is deformed, a weakling
     will be born in the man's house.

     If a woman gives birth, and the left ear is deformed, a strong one
     will be born in the man's house[110].

     If a woman gives birth, and the right ear of the child lies at the
     lower jaw[111], the son of the man will destroy the man's house.

     If a woman gives birth, and the left ear lies at the lower jaw, the
     son of the man will encircle the man's house[112].

     If a woman gives birth, and there are two ears on the right side and
     the left ear is missing, the angry gods will return to the land and
     the land will have peace.

     If a woman gives birth, and there are two ears on the left side and
     the right ear is missing, the counsel of the land will be disturbed.

                  *       *       *       *       *

     If a woman gives birth, and both ears are flattened,--revolt.

The principle consistently applied throughout these omens is that a defect
or deformity on the right side is an unfavorable sign, and that the same
phenomenon on the left side is unfavorable to the enemy, or favorable to
you. A large ear--suggesting that of a lion--points by association to
enlargement and increased strength.

The text then passes on to other peculiarities.

     If a woman gives birth, and (the child has) the mouth of a bird, that
     land will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth, and the mouth is missing, the mistress of the
     house will die.

     If a woman gives birth, and the right nostril is missing,--injury.

     If a woman gives birth, and both nostrils are missing, the land will
     experience distress, the house of the man will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth, and the jaws are missing[113], the days of
     the ruler will come to an end, the house will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth, and the lower jaw is missing, the enemy will
     take the boundary strip of my land.

     If a woman gives birth, and the arms (?) are missing, the house of
     the man will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth, and the arms (?) are short, he will attain

                  *       *       *       *       *

     If a woman gives birth, and the upper lip rides over the lower
     one[114], he will attain favor.

     If a woman gives birth, and the lips are missing, the land will
     encounter distress, the house of the man will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth, and one arm is short, that man will be

     If a woman gives birth, and the right hand is missing, that land will
     suffer destruction.

     If a woman gives birth, and both hands are missing, the enemy will
     conquer the city of the new-born[116].

     If a woman gives birth, and the fingers of the right hand are
     missing, the ruler will be hemmed in by his enemy.

     If a woman gives birth, and there are six fingers on the right hand,
     misfortune will seize the house.

     If a woman gives birth, and there are six toes on the right and on
     the left foot, the children[117] will encounter misfortune.

     If a woman gives birth, and there are six toes on the right foot,
     there will be injury[118].

                  *       *       *       *       *

     If a woman gives birth, and the genital member is missing, the master
     of the house will be weakened, drying up of the field.

     If a woman gives birth, and the genital member and the testicles are
     missing, the land will encounter misfortune, the woman[119] will
     suffer pain, the house[120] will control the palace[121].

     If a woman gives birth, and the anus is closed[122], the land will
     suffer famine.

     If a woman gives birth, and the anus [is missing ?], the king will be
     restrained in his palace.

     If a woman gives birth, and the right thigh is missing, the land of
     the ruler will go to ruin.

     If a woman gives birth, and the left thigh is missing, the enemy's
     land will go to ruin.

                  *       *       *       *       *

     If a woman gives birth, and both feet are missing, the course of the
     land will be checked, that house will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth, and the right foot [of the child] is like
     that of a turtle[123], the enemy will destroy the property of the

     If a woman gives birth, and hands and feet are like those of a
     turtle, the ruler will destroy the product of his land.

     If a woman gives birth, and the feet are attached to the belly
     (?)[124], the possession of the house will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth, and the child has only one foot, which is
     attached to the belly (?) and does not [touch] the ground[125] the
     land will suffer misfortune, the house will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth, and it has three feet of which two are
     entwined in one another[126] with the body, destruction will prevail
     in the land.

     If a woman gives birth, and it has four feet and genital member and
     pudenda are there, the land will suffer misfortune, a strange ruler
     will appear on the scene.

     If a woman gives birth, and the right leg is missing, the land of the
     ruler will go to ruin.

     If a woman gives birth, and the left leg is missing, the enemy's land
     will go to ruin.

In general, malformations are looked upon as unfavorable, as are also
excess organs or parts e. g. six fingers or six toes; and it is only
occasionally that a peculiarity such as shortened arms or a protruding
upper lip, receives a favorable interpretation. The variations in the
interpretations themselves are not numerous, and for the most part are
probably selected in an entirely arbitrary fashion, though here, too, as
has been pointed out several times, association of ideas enters as a
factor, as, e. g., where large ears are made to point to increased power.
At the same time, it is also clear that the great majority of the
malformations and abnormalities in the text that we have just discussed
are such as =actually= do occur and with the help of medical works on
human malformations[127], many of the omens described in this and in other
texts can be identified. There can, therefore, be no doubt that the
collections of the =bârû=-priests dealing with birth-omens observed in
infants, likewise, rest upon actual observations, though the field was
extended by passing on from actual to purely fanciful and impossible
abnormalities. The extent to which this attempt to provide for all kinds
of contingencies was carried in the collections is illustrated by a
portion of the first tablet of a series[128] dealing with human
birth-omens. This section treating in part of the birth of shapeless
abortions reads as follows:

     If a woman gives birth to =pudenda=[129], the royal dynasty will be

     If a woman gives birth to a head[130], the land will encounter

     If a woman gives birth to a form of some kind[131], king against
     king,--his rival, will prevail.

     If a woman gives birth to a foetus[132], the land will encounter

     If a woman gives birth to a foetus in which there is a second, the
     rule of the king and of his sons will come to an end ... the power of
     the land [will dwindle].

     If a woman gives birth to a mass of clay[133], the king's land will
     oppose him and cause terror.

     If a woman is pregnant with a mass of clay and gives birth to a mass
     of clay, misfortune will come, the mother will close off her gate
     against the daughter, there will be no protection, the man[134] will
     go to ruin, the produce of the field will not prosper.

     If a woman gives birth to a male still-birth, Nergal[135] will
     destroy, the man[136] will die before his time.

     If a woman gives birth to a weak boy, distress, destruction of the

     If a woman gives birth to a weak girl, that house will be destroyed
     by fire.

     If a woman gives birth to a lame boy, distress, that house [will be

     If a woman gives birth to a lame girl, =ditto=.

     If a woman gives birth to a cripple, that house will be plundered.

     If a woman gives birth to a crippled girl, that house [will be
     destroyed ?].

                  *       *       *       *       *

     If a woman gives birth to something that has no face[138], the land
     will experience sorrow, that house will not prosper.

     If a woman gives birth to a weakling, that city[139] [will experience
     misfortune ?].

     If a woman gives birth to a crippled being, the land will experience
     sorrow, that house [will not prosper].

     If a woman gives birth to a deaf mute, the house will be shut in.

                  *       *       *       *       *

     If a woman gives birth to a dwarf[140] of a half-shape, that city
     will be opposed.

     If a woman gives birth to a half-shaped being with bearded lips[141],
     talking[142], and that moves about, and has teeth[143]--hostility of
     Nergal, the crushing force of a powerful attack on the land, a
     god[144] will destroy, streets will be attacked, houses will be

One may question whether all of such monstrosities actually occurred,
though they are all possible, if we add the factor of fancy to account for
some of the descriptions. The conventional character of the
interpretations and the constant repetition of the same prognostications
likewise indicate the desire on the part of the =bârû=-priests to exhaust
their medical knowledge of monstrosities and malformations that could
occur, in order to swell the collections to the largest possible
proportions. The first tablet of the series[145] of which an extract has
just been given, begins with an enumeration of various animals to which a
newly born infant bears a resemblance and which is expressed, similarly to
what we found in the animal birth-omens, by the phrase that the woman
gives birth to the animal in question. The series begins as follows:

     If a woman gives birth, and the offspring cries in the womb, the land
     will encounter sickness.

     If a woman gives birth, and the offspring cries in the womb and it is
     distinctly heard, a powerful enemy will arise and overthrow the land,
     destruction will sweep the land, the enemy will destroy the precious
     possession, or the master's house will be destroyed.

     If a woman gives birth to a lion, that city will be taken, the king
     will be captured.

     If a woman gives birth to a dog, the master of the house will die and
     that house will be destroyed, confusion, Nergal will destroy.

     If a woman gives birth to a pig, a woman will seize the throne.

     If a woman gives birth to an ox, the king of universal rule will
     prevail in the land.

     If a woman gives birth to an ass, the king of universal rule will
     prevail in the land.

     If a woman gives birth to a lamb, the ruler will be without a rival.

     If a woman gives birth to a Sâ[146], the ruler will be without a

     If a woman gives birth to a serpent[147], I will surround the house
     of the master.

     If a woman gives birth to a dolphin (?)[148], the house of the [man
     will be enlarged ?].

     If a woman gives birth to a fish-being[149], the rule of the king
     will prosper, the gods [will return to the land].

     If a woman gives birth to a bird[150],...

These examples will suffice to show the part played by the supposed
resemblance of a new-born infant with one animal or the other in the
Babylonian-Assyrian birth-omens; nor is it difficult to see how the
thought of such resemblances should arise, for, as a matter of fact, the
shape of the head of an infant easily suggests that of a dog or a bird.
The ear if unusually large might recall a donkey's ear; a small eye, that
of a pig, and a large one, that of a lion[151]. The association of ideas
with the various animals no doubt suggests the interpretation in most
cases, though in others the interpretation appears to be of a purely
conventional type and as a rule favorable.


Now what does all this mean? Is there any larger significance in these
elaborate collections of birth-omens? Do investigations of this character
serve any purpose beyond finding out how foolish many millions of people
were thousands of years ago, though to be sure it may be some satisfaction
to ascertain for oneself that foolishness has so venerable an ancestry.
Bouché-Leclercq says at the close of his introduction to his great work on
Greek Astrology[152] that 'it is not a waste of time to find out how other
peoples wasted theirs'. But there would be small comfort even in such a
reflection, if studies in the history of divination did not furnish a
larger outlook on the development of human thought--if in short such
studies did not have some important bearing on the cultural history of
mankind. Let us see whether this is the case.

Such is the curious nature of man that his science starts with
superstition. The intellectual effort involved in developing what to us at
least must appear as a foolish and erroneous notion, nevertheless, results
in some positive advantage. We often hear it said that medicine starts
with religion, and this is true in the sense that the cure of disease was
once closely bound up with the belief that all suffering was due to some
demon or invisible spirit that had entered the body--a view that is after
all not so far removed from the modern 'germ' theory holding for so many
diseases, for the germs are practically invisible and their demoniac
character will assuredly not be denied. The cure of a disease in primitive
medicine consisted in driving the demon out of the body, for which again
we might without much difficulty find an equivalent in modern medicinal
methods. Incantations were supposed to have the power of frightening the
demon or in some other way of inducing them to leave the body of the
victim, but it was soon discovered that certain herbs and concoctions
helped to this end--not that it was at first supposed that such herbs and
concoctions were useful to the patient, but that they were =obnoxious= to
the demons who preferred to leave their victims rather than endure the
nasty and ill-smelling combinations that frequently form the medical
prescriptions attached to the incantations[153]. What we would regard as
medicinal remedies were originally given to the patient, with a view and
in the hope of disgusting the demon that had caused the disease--a
supplement therefore to the power attributed to the recitation of certain
combinations of words, and all with a view to force the demons to release
their hold on the sufferer by quitting his body. From such superstitious
beginnings medicine, closely bound up with the prevailing religious
beliefs, took its rise. In the same way, liver divination though as a
practice it belongs to the period of primitive culture and rests on an
asumption which from the modern scientific point of view is the height of
absurdity, nevertheless, led to the study of anatomy and as a matter of
fact, the observation of the liver for purposes of divination represents
the beginnings of the study of anatomy[154]. Astrology led to astronomy,
and in the same way the observation of birth-omens gave rise to another
science or at least to a mental discipline that until quite recently was
regarded as a science--namely, the study of human and animal physiognomy.
The importance given to any and to all kinds of peculiarities in the case
of the young of animals and in new-born infants naturally sharpened the
powers of observation, and led people to carefully scrutinize and study
the features of the new-born. The large part played in this scrutiny by
the supposed resemblance of the features of an infant to those of some
animal formed a natural starting point, from which it was not a very large
step to the position that this supposed resemblance had a bearing on the
child itself. In other words the birth-omens in so far as they referred to
phenomena among infants had a double significance; they portended
something of moment either to the general welfare or to the house in which
the birth took place and also to the child.

It is certainly not accidental that in the study of Human Physiognomy as
carried on among the Greeks and Romans as well as among mediaeval Arabic
and Christian writers, the supposed resemblances of people to animals was
one of the chief methods employed for determining the character of an
individual. This phase of Human Physiognomy I venture to trace back
directly to divination through birth-omens, which would by a natural
process lead to the study of human features as a means of ascertaining the
character of an individual. Among the Greeks, the great Plato[155] was
supposed to approve of the theory that a man possesses to some extent the
traits of the animal that he resembles; and it seems to be a kind of
poetic justice that a philosopher holding so manifestly absurd a theory
should himself, as will presently appear, have been compared by a
celebrated physiognomist of the 16{th} century to a dog--though to be sure
to a dog of the finer type. Polemon and Adamantius many centuries after
Plato are among the significant names of those who tried to work out the
theory in the form of an elaborate science[156]. Aristotle who can
generally be counted upon to have sane views on most subjects opposed this
method of studying human character, though until a few decades ago a work
on Human Physiognomy[157] based on the theory of a man's possessing the
traits of the animal that he resembles passed as a production of
Aristotle. It is one of the many merits of modern scholarship to have
removed this stigma from the prince of Greek philosophers. Aristotle, as a
matter of fact, in a significant passage in his =de Generatione Animalium=
(IV, 54) denies the possibility of the crossing of an animal of one
species with that of another, and adds that malformations can produce
=apparent= similarities between animals of different species, but which
are to be explained through the workings of natural laws. These laws
condition deviations from the normal as well as all normal phenomena.
Nothing in nature, Aristotle sums up, can be =contra naturam=. It would
appear from passages like this that in Aristotle's days the resemblances
between an animal of one species and that of another, and the resemblance
between man and animals had led to the belief of cross breeds to account
for such resemblances, while monstrosities among animals and among men
were looked upon as omens sent by the gods as a warning or as curses for
crimes committed--a point of view that, as we shall see, is likewise to be
traced back to Babylonian-Assyrian influences.

There were others besides Aristotle who opposed the current views, but
the curious thing is that even those who rejected the theory of a
transition of one species to another still maintained that certain traits
in an individual could be associated with and explained by features that
they had in common with some animal or the other. Notable among these was
Giovanni Porta, a most distinguished scholar of the 16{th} century, who
while a believer in magic was also a scientific investigator whose
researches proved of great value in developing a true theory of light and
who among other achievements invented the =camera obscura=. He wrote a
work in Latin, =de Humana Physiognomica= (Sorrento, 1586) which he himself
translated into Italian (Naples, 1598) and which subsequently appeared in
French and German editions. It remained in fact the standard work on the
subject up to the time of Lavater's great work on Physiognomy at the end
of the 18{th} century. Porta opposed Plato's theory that a man has the
traits of the animal that he resembles, on the ground that a man may have
features suggesting =various= animals. His forehead may recall that of a
dog, while his mouth may be like the snout of a swine, and his ears may
resemble those of an ass. In fact Porta maintains that no man has features
all of which suggest a comparison with =one= animal only. Yet Porta is of
the opinion that the resemblance between men and animals, which is
self-evident, forms the basis for the study of human character, with this
modification, however, which makes the theory even more complicated, that
each feature,--the forehead, the eyes, the nose, the mouth, the ears, the
lips and even the eyebrows, and the color of hair of the head or the
beard--betrays some characteristic. It is through the combination of all
these features that the character is to be determined, but each feature is
compared by Porta to the corresponding one of some animal and its
significance set forth according to the idea associated with the animal.
Porta's treatise is, therefore, quite as largely taken up with comparisons
between men and animals as are the treaties of other Physiognomists, only
in more detailed fashion. Thus a long forehead or one not too flat or too
even, suggested to Porta the character of a sagacious dog and by way of
illustration (p. 114 and 118)[158] places the portrait of a dog side by
side with one traditionally supposed to be a likeness of Plato. Dante, so
Porta tells us, also had such a dog forehead. A square forehead suggests
that of a lion (115) and points to magnanimity, courage and
prudence--provided, he adds, the rest of the face is in proportion; a
high, rounded forehead (117) is compared with that of an ass, and is an
indication of stupidity and imprudence. In the case of noses, comparisons
are instituted with the beaks of ravens, eagles and roosters, with the
noses of oxen, swine, dogs, apes and stags, and horses. Since the raven is
an impudent and rapacious bird, he who is endowed by nature with a nose
that curves from the forehead outward will also show these unpleasant
qualities; on the other hand, if the nose is shaped like an eagle's beak,
the person will share the magnanimity and royal spirit of the bird of
Jupiter. The illustration (150) shows the picture of the Emperor Sergius
Galba, side by side with an eagle's face. Cyrus and Artaxerxes, too, are
said to have had noses of this fortunate shape; and by way of confirmation
of the theory, Porta gives illustrations of the magnanimity of these and
of other rulers who had a beak like that of an eagle. A nose broad in the
middle and sloping inwards (154), suggesting that of an ox, indicates a
lying and verbose individual; a thick nose (155) is pictured side by side
with a swine's head with the usual uncomplimentary traits associated with
that animal. In this way and in most detailed fashion Porta takes up in
succession the mouth, the ears, the eyes, the teeth, the lips, the hair
and the face in general[159]. A very large and broad face is compared with
that of an ox or ass (172 seq.) and indicates ignorance, stupidity,
laziness and obstinacy; a very small face resembles that of a cat or an
ape (174 seq.) and prognosticates timidity, shrewd servility and
narrowness; a very fleshy face is again compared with that of an ox
(177); a very bony one with that of an ass, though Porta here as elsewhere
is somewhat embarrassed by the variant opinions of his authorities
Pseudo-Aristotle, Polemon and Adamantius and not infrequently has recourse
to textual changes in order to solve difficulties. The doubt as to the
reasonableness of the whole theory never appears, however, to have entered
his mind, and he cheerfully proceeds with his comparisons in the course of
which he introduces notable historical personages as illustrations. In
this way Socrates is compared to a stag and because of his baldness is
given a malignant, and, according to others, a lascivious nature (87); the
Emperor Vitellius is likened to an owl (12); Actiolinus to a hunting dog
because of the groove above his eyes (125); Plato, as we have seen, to a
dog and Sergius Galba to an eagle, while the head of Alexander the Great,
though only of medium size, is compared with that of a lion (72).

Such was the influence of Porta's work that it remained the authority for
the study of Human Physiognomy till towards the end of the 18{th} century
when Lavater's four volumes of "Physiognomical Fragments"[160] appeared
with their wonderful illustrations, to which the profound impression made
by the work was largely due. Lavater constantly refers to Porta, but one
of his main objects is to controvert the thesis that the comparison of
human features with those of animals should form the means of determining
the trait indicated by the feature in question. Curiously enough in a
preliminary outline of his system of Physiognomy[161], Lavater had
included a chapter on the resemblance between man and animals, but by the
time he came to work out his system he had changed his mind and henceforth
opposed Porta's view. To be sure, the grounds on which he does so are more
of a sentimental than of a scientific character. Lavater--a clergyman and
a believer in the special creation of man by the Divine Power
(Physiognomische Fragmente II 192),--protests against a possible
relationship between man and the animal world, declaring that to see
animal features in the human face is to lower the dignity of mankind. Man
created as God's supreme achievement can have nothing to do with the
animal creation which represents a lower order of being. Even Lavater does
not go so far as to deny all resemblances between human features and those
of animals. He admits and sympathizes and enlarges on them in several
passages (II 192; IV 56); but he ascribes them to accident or to fancy,
and declines to draw therefrom the conclusion that the individual who has
some feature or a number of features that suggest those of some animal
must, therefore, have the traits associated with the animal or the animals
in question. It is rather strange that Lavater should not have hit upon
the =real= objection to Porta's method which lies in the contradictions in
which he necessarily involves himself by comparing the various features of
an individual with various animals, the forehead with one animal, the eyes
with another, the lips with a third and so on; and since the animals in
question show entirely different and contradictory traits, it is
manifestly impossible to reach any rational conclusions as to a man's
character by so absurd a method. However, although Lavater does not reveal
the real weakness of the current theory of Human Physiognomy, yet he
contributed to the overthrow of the theory itself which had reached the
stage of =reductio ad absurdum= through the modifications introduced by
Porta. It often happens that an outlived theory is set aside through
arguments that are in themselves insufficient to do so.

Through Lavater the study of Physiognomy was thrown back on the scrutiny
of human features, and the determination of a man's character by a direct
method and without recourse to comparisons with the features of animals.
In thus removing, however, what had been one of the props of the study of
Human Physiognomy, Lavater shook the foundation of the study itself. With
the advent of modern medicine, the study of Physiognomy was dethroned from
the place that it had so long occupied and was relegated to the
pseudo-sciences--an interesting and in many respects a suggestive
intellectual discipline, but not a science. As a recent writer tersely
puts it 'The physiognomical feeling and sensation will never die out among
people, for the roots lie deep in human nature. It is erroneous, however,
to attempt to construct a science out of it'[162].

The thought, however, of endeavoring to determine the character of an
individual by a study of the peculiarities and striking indications of his
features would never have arisen, but for the antecedent beliefs that gave
to the observation of birth-omens so prominent a place among methods of
divination. Corresponding to the emphasis laid upon the individual factor
when Babylonian-Assyrian Astrology passed to the Greeks and which led to
'Genethlialogy' or the casting of the individual horoscope as the chief
phase of astrology, in contradistinction to the exclusive bearing of
astrology in its native haunt on the general welfare[163], the
Babylonian-Assyrian system of divination through the study of birth-omens
received an individualistic aspect upon passing to the Greeks and Romans,
by leading to the study of human features as a means of determining the
character of an individual; and with the character also the
prognostication of the fate in store for him during his earthly career. In
other words, the rise of the study of Human Physiognomy finds a natural
explanation, if we assume that it takes its rise from a system of
divination based on the observation of peculiarities noted at the time of
birth. It was natural when divination methods were employed to forecast
the future of the individual, that the thought should arise of a close
relationship between the features of an individual and his personality,
which would include the powers and qualities bestowed on him, and which
determine his actions and the experiences he will encounter. The fact that
in this pseudo-science of Physiognomy, the comparison between man and
animals played so significant a part among Greek and Roman Physiognomists
and through them among the scientists of Europe till almost to the
threshold of the modern movement in science, adds an additional force to
the thesis here set forth. Such a method of determining the traits
possessed by an individual, and which was the keynote of Human Physiognomy
till the days of Lavater, would not have maintained so strong a hold on
thinkers and on the masses had it arisen in connection with the study
itself. It was =embodied= into the study of Human Physiognomy as an
integral part of it, because it represented an =established= tradition.
The Babylonian-Assyrian birth-omens in which this very comparison between
man and animals forms so important a factor furnish the natural conditions
for the rise of the tradition, while the long range of time covered by the
Babylonian-Assyrian birth-omens supply the second factor needed to account
for the persistency of the tradition after it had passed beyond the
confines within which it arose.


Now in order to justify the proposition that the study of Human
Physiognomy, as developed among the Greeks and Romans and as passed on to
others with its insistence on the fancied resemblance between man and
animals as a leading and indeed as a fundamental factor, is to be directly
carried back to the birth-omens of Babylonia and Assyria, we ought to be
able to establish that among Greeks and Romans the abnormalities observed
at the birth of infants and of the young of animals were really regarded
as omens, and that such omens show a sufficient affinity to what we find
among Babylonians and Assyrians to warrant the conclusion that, just as
Hepatoscopy and Astrology came to the Greeks and Romans through influences
emanating from the Euphrates Valley, so also the third large division of
divination methods may be traced to the same source. Let us first take up
the Romans for which the material at our disposal is so much more

Julius Obsequens, a writer whose exact date has not yet been determined,
collected in his famous =Liber de Prodigiis=[164] all the omens that had
been noted during a certain period of Roman history. He enumerates in all
72 covering the years 55 to 132 A. D. and the list itself is an
instructive commentary on the attention that was paid to 'signs' of all
kinds among the Romans as an index of the will and the intention of the
gods. We find references to such phenomena as a rain of stones,--presumably
hail stones--of oil, blood and milk--apparently allusions to volcanic
eruptions, disguised in somewhat fanciful language--of the sun seen at
night--perhaps a description of an eclipse when to a frightened populace
it might appear as though night had suddenly set in--of blood appearing in
rivers and of milk in lakes--no doubt a pollution of some kind due perhaps
to masses of earth or to glacial deposits pouring into the river--to
burning torches in the heavens--probably comets with long tails--and more
the like, all indicative of the unbridled play of popular fancy and
showing that among the Romans, as among Babylonians and Assyrians, all
unusual occurrences were looked upon as omens--portending some unusual
happenings. Now among the 72 signs of Julius Obsequens there are quite a
number of actual birth-omens, the character of which is so close to what
we find in the collections of the =bârû= priests as to show a practical
identity in the points of view. So we are told of several instances of a
mule (supposed to be sterile) giving birth to a young (§ 65), in one case
even to triplets (§ 15), in another to a young with five feet (§ 27). For
the year 83 he records among various remarkable occurrences all regarded
as omens, the birth of a colt with five feet (§ 24); two years in
succession a two-headed calf (§ 31-32). Very much as in the
Babylonian-Assyrian collections we read (§ 14) of a sow giving birth to a
young with the hands and feet of a man. Among human monstrosities, our
author records the case of a boy with three feet and one hand (§ 20), with
one hand (§ 52), a boy with a closed anus (§ 26, 40), with four feet, four
eyes and four ears and with double genital members (§ 25). Several
instances are given of androgynous infants (§ 22, 32 and 36). Twins born
at Nursia in the year 100 are described as follows, 'the girl with all
parts intact, the boy with the upper part of the belly open, revealing the
intestines[165], the anus closed, and speaking as he expired' (§ 40). The
talking infant is a not infrequent phenomenon[166]. In the following year
the birth of a boy who said 'ave' is recorded (§ 41). Again, as in the
collections of the =bârû= priests[167], we read (§ 57) of a woman giving
birth to a serpent.

To these birth-omens further examples can be added from that inexhaustible
storehouse of encyclopaedic knowledge, the Natural History of Pliny the
Younger who, among other things, tells us (Hist. Nat. VII 3) of a woman
Alcippa who gave birth to a child with the head of an elephant[168].
Valerius Maximus in his =de Dictis Factisque Memorabilibus= devotes a
chapter to =Prodigia=[169] of the same miscellaneous character as the
collection of Julius Obsequens--many in fact identical--among which by the
side of rivers flowing with blood, talking oxen who utter words of
warning[170], rain of stones, mysterious voices, we also find birth-omens
such as the speaking infant and the child with an elephant's head[171].
Suetonius[172] tells us that Caesar's horse had human feet and that the
Haruspices--the Etruscan augurs--declared it to be an omen that the world
would one day belong to Caesar. We see, therefore, that among the Romans
birth-omens were regarded from the same point of view as among the
Babylonians and Assyrians and that the interpretation of the omens was the
concern of a special class who acted as diviners. Now the question may
properly be put at this juncture, whether we are in a position to trace
the actual interpretation of birth-omens among the Romans back to the
Babylonian-Assyrian =bârû=-priests? To this question, I think an
affirmative answer may unhesitatingly be given. We have in the first place
the testimony of Cicero[173], as well as other writers[174] that the
Etruscans who are described as skilled in all kinds of divination were
especially versed in the interpretation of malformations among infants and
among the young of animals. Cicero emphasizes more particularly by the
side of birth-omens, divination through the sacrificial animal and through
phenomenen in the heavens, thus giving us the same three classes that we
find among Babylonians and Assyrians. Since Hepatoscopy and Astrology
among Greeks and Romans can be traced back directly to Babylonia and
Assyria[175], the presumption is in favor of the thesis that the Etruscan
augurs derived their birth-omens also from the same source. The character
of the specimens that we have of the Etruscan interpretations of
birth-omens strengthens this presumption. So, e. g., Cicero preserves the
wording of such a birth-omen[176] which presents a perfect parallel to
what we find in the collections of the Babylonian-Assyrian =bârû= priests,
to wit, that if a woman gives birth to a lion, it is an indication that
the state will be vanquished by an enemy. If we compare with this a
statement in a Babylonian-Assyrian text dealing with birth-omens[177],

     'If a woman gives birth to a lion, that city will be taken, the king
     will be imprisoned',

it will be admitted that the coincidence is too close to be accidental.
The phraseology, resting upon the resemblance between man and animals, is
identical. The comparison of an infant to a lion, as of a new-born lamb to
a lion is characteristic of the Babylonian-Assyrian divination texts and
even the form of the omen, stating that the woman actually gave birth to
a lion is the same in both while the basis of interpretation--the lion
pointing to an exercise of strength--is likewise identical. Ordinarily the
resemblance of the feature of an infant to that of a lion points to
increased power on the part of the king of the country, but in the
specific case, the omen is unfavorable also in the Babylonian text. It is
the enemy who will develop power, so that the agreement between the
Babylonian and Etruscan omen extends even to the exceptional character of
the interpretation in this particular instance.

In the same passage[178], Cicero refers to the two-fold interpretation
given for the case of a girl born with two heads, one that there will be
revolt among the people, the other that the marriage tie will be broken.
We thus have two interpretations, one bearing on the public weal, the
other on private affairs, corresponding to the frequent combination of
'official' and 'unofficial' interpretations in the collections of the
=bârû=-priests[179]. The specific interpretations are again of the same
character as we find in the Babylonian-Assyrian texts, 'revolt'[180] being
in fact one of the most common, while the other corresponds to the phrase
'no unity among man and wife' found in the texts above discussed[181]. It
so happens that in the case of the birth of a two-headed girl we have both
the 'official' and the 'unofficial' interpretation, namely, 'No union
between man and wife and diminution of the land'[182]--forming a really
remarkable parallel to the Etruscan omen.

Further testimony to the parallelism between Etruscan and
Babylonian-Assyrian methods of divination in the case of birth-omens is
born by an interesting passage in the Annals of Tacitus (XV, 47) that
two-headed children or two-headed young of animals were interpreted by the
Haruspices as pointing to an approaching change of dynasty and to the
appearance of a weak ruler. Again, therefore, prognostications that
present a complete parallel to what we find in the Babylonian-Assyrian

Macrobius[184] preserves an Etruscan interpretation of a birth-omen
relating to the color of newly born lambs. A purple or golden color of
the lamb points to good luck. This 'purple' color corresponds to the term
=sâmu= frequently occurring in Babylonian-Assyrian omen texts and which
is generally rendered 'dark red'[185]. In the collections of the
=bârû=-priests, many references are found to the colors of the young
animals and among these we have as a complete parallel to the statement
in Macrobius the following[186]:

     [If an ewe] gives birth to a young of dark-red color,--good

Lastly, the terms used to describe all kinds of malformations--=monstra=
and =prodigia=[188], i. e., phenomena that 'point' to something show a
parallel conception to the Babylonian-Assyrian viewpoint that abnormality
in the case of the young of animals and of infants are primarily =signs=
sent to indicate unusual events that would shortly happen.

That the Greeks also attached an importance to malformations, may be
concluded from Aristotle's protest[189] against the supposition that a
woman can give birth to an infant with the features of some animal[190],
or that an animal can give birth to a young with human features. Such
resemblances, he asserts, are merely superficial and he endeavors to
account for them as for all malformations in a scientific manner, as due
to an insufficient control of the fructifying matter which prevents a
normal development of the embryo. While Aristotle does not directly refer
to the belief that malformations and monstrosities were looked upon by
Greeks as omens, the emphatic manner in which he states that abnormalities
cannot be against nature but only against the ordinary course of
nature[191] indicates that he is polemicizing against a view which looked
upon such anomalies as contrary to nature, and presumably regarded them,
therefore, from the same point of view as did the Babylonians and
Etruscans. We have a direct proof for this view however, in Valerius
Maximus, who includes in his list of =prodigia= birth-omens recorded among
the Greeks, such as a mare giving birth to a hare at the time that Xerxes
was planning his invasion of Greece which was regarded as an omen of the
coming event[192], or again an infant with malformation of the mouth[193].
Herodotus[194] records as another sign at the time of Xerxes' contemplated
invasion of Greece a mule giving birth to a chicken with double genital
organs, male and female, which is clearly again a birth omen. A further
proof is furnished in a passage in Aelian[195], which reports that an ewe
in the herd of Nikippos gave birth to a lion and that this was regarded as
an omen prognosticating that Nikippos, who at the time was a simple
citizen, would become the ruler of the island. It will be recalled that
this birth-omen--the ewe giving birth to a lion--is not only of special
frequency, in the omen series of Babylonia and Assyria[196], but is part
of the conventional divinatory phraseology of these texts, while the
interpretation based on the association of the lion with power forms a
complete and verbal parallel to the system devised by the =bârû=-priests.
The fact that the birth-omen is reported as occurring at Cos is rather
interesting, because it was there that Berosus, who brought Babylonian
Astrology to the Greeks, settled and opened his school for instruction in
the divinatory methods of the =bârû=-priests. We are, therefore, justified
in looking upon this circumstance as a link connecting birth-omens among
Greek settlements with influences, emanating directly from the
civilization of the Euphrates Valley. As another proof of the spread of
Babylonian-Assyrian divination in other parts of the ancient world, we may
point to the story reported by Herodotus[197] of a concubine of King Meles
of Sardis who gave birth to a lion, and of the tale found in Cicero as
well as in Herodotus[198], of the speaking infant of king Croesus of
Lydia which was interpreted as an omen of the coming destruction of the
kingdom and of the royal house. Here, again, we find (a) the familiar
phraseology resting upon the supposed resemblance between man and animals
and (b) the agreement in the interpretation of the anomaly of an infant
capable of speaking--a birth-omen of particularly ominous
significance[199]. Bearing in mind the discovery of clay models of livers
with inscriptions revealing the terminology of Babylonian-Assyrian
Hepatoscopy in the Hittite centre Boghaz-Kewi[200] and which definitely
establishes the spread of this division of Babylonian-Assyrian Divination
to Asia Minor, it is quite in keeping with what we would have a right to
expect, to come across traces of Babylonian-Assyrian birth-omens in this
same general region. That the Etruscans are to be traced back to Asia
Minor is a thesis that is now so generally accepted as to justify us in
regarding it as definitely established[201]. Hepatoscopy and Birth-omens
thus followed the same course in passing from the distant East to the
West. We may sum up our thesis in the general statement that Babylonian
divination made its way from Babylonia to Assyria, subsequently spread to
Asia Minor and through the mediation of Hittites and Etruscans came to the
Greeks and Romans[202]. The same is the case with Astrology so far as the
Romans were concerned, for whom the Etruscans again represent the
mediators, while the Greeks appear to have obtained their knowledge of
Babylonian-Assyrian Astrology through the direct contact between Greece
and Euphratean culture, leading to a mutual exchange of views and customs.


There is still another aspect of the subject of Babylonian-Assyrian
Birth-omens to which attention should be directed, and which will further
illustrate the cultural significance of the views that gave rise to this
extensive subdivision of Babylonian-Assyrian divination. We have in the
course of our investigations noted the tendency in the collections of the
=bârû=-priests to allow a free scope to the reins of fancy, which led to
the amplification of entries of actual occurrences by adding entries of
abnormalities that do not occur. In order to be prepared for all
contingencies, the priests, as we saw, extended the scope of birth-omens
in all directions, through entries for an ascending scale of multiple
births which went far beyond the remotest possibility, through equally
extravagant entries of the number of excess organs or of excess parts of
the body, and through the most fanciful combinations of the features,
aspects and parts of various animals in the case of new-born infants and
the young of animals. The omission of the preposition 'like'[203] in the
case of these entries obscured the starting-point for such comparisons,
and it was natural for the idea of an ewe =actually= giving birth to a
lion, or for a woman to some animal or the other--a lion, dog, fox,
etc.--to take root[204]. Strange as this may seem to us, yet if we bear in
mind the ignorance of people in the ancient world as to the origin and
course of pregnancy and the general lack of knowledge of the laws of
nature, the dividing line between the possible and the impossible would be
correspondingly faint. At all events, the transition from the abnormal to
the belief in monstrosities that were quite out of the question and that
represent the outcome of pure fancy would be more readily made. Indeed,
through a combination of all the features involved in the entries of the
=bârû=-priests, we obtain a reasonable basis for the belief, widespread
throughout the ancient Orient as well as in the Greek and Roman world and
existing up to the threshhold of modern science, in all kinds of monstrous
beings which find their reflex in the fabulous creatures of mythology,
legend and folklore. In other words, the Babylonian-Assyrian birth-omens
form the first chapter in the history of monsters. The very term
=monstrum=, as already suggested, reflects the Babylonian-Assyrian point
of view, as a being which is sent as a sign--'pointing' (monstrare) to
some coming event. A =monstrum= is in fact a =demonstration= of the will
or intent of a deity, which becomes definite through the interpretation
put upon it. Perhaps this point will become a little clearer, if we
consider some of the possibilities included in the Babylonian-Assyrian
birth-omens. An ewe giving birth to a lamb with two or even more heads, or
to a creature with some of the organs and parts of the body doubled and
with some single is certainly a monstrosity; and it is only a small step
from such monstrosities which fall within the category of the abnormally
possible to supposed combinations of the parts or features of various
animals in one being. We actually read in one of these texts[205] of an
=isbu= or a young lamb having the head of a lion and the tail of a fox, or
the head of a dog and the mouth of a lion, or the head of a mountain goat
and the mouth of a lion; or in another text[206] of colts with heads or
manes of lions, or with the claws of lions or feet of dogs or with the
heads of dogs. It is only necessary to carry this fanciful combination a
little further to reach the conception that led to picturing the Egyptian
sphinxes or the Babylonian =šedu= or =lamassu=[207]--the protecting
spirits or demons guarding the entrances to palaces and temples, as having
the head of a man, the body of a lion or bull; and in the case of the
Assyrian sphinxes also the wings of an eagle. Similarly, in the case of
infants we find actual monstrosities recorded as a child with a double
face, four hands and four feet[208], or with the ear of a lion and the
mouth of a bird. Here again the step is a small one to the assumption of
hybrid beings as hippocentaurs--half man and half horse--or tritons and
mermaids--half human, half fish--or satyrs and fawns or monsters like
Cerberus with several heads.

It has commonly been held that the conception of such fabulous hybrid
beings rested on a popular belief in a kind of primitive theory of
evolution, according to which in an early stage creatures were produced in
a mixed form and that gradually order was brought out of this chaotic
stage of creation. Berosus[209] in his account of creation according to
Babylonian traditions voices this theory, and gives a description of the
'mixed' creatures that marked this earliest period of time, "men with
double wings, some with four wings and two faces, some with one body but
two heads and having both male and female organs, others with goat's legs
and horns, with horses feet, the hind parts of the body like a horse, in
front like a man, (i. e., hippocentaurs). There were also bulls with human
heads, dogs with four bodies and fish tails, horses with the head of dogs,
men and other creatures with heads and bodies of horses but tails of
fishes, and various other creatures with the forms of all kinds of animals
... all kinds of marvellous hybrid beings". The description, which is
confirmed in part by the Marduk Epic or the 'Babylon' version of creation
where we encounter 'scorpion men', 'fish-men', 'goat-fish', dragons and
other monstrous beings[210] as the brood of Tiamat the symbol of primaeval
chaos, reads like an extract from the birth-omens in the
Babylonian-Assyrian handbooks of divination. As a matter of fact, many of
the hybrid beings described by Berosus can be parallelled in those parts
of the collections that have been published[211].

My thesis, therefore, is that the birth-omens gave rise to the belief in
all kinds of monstrous and fabulous beings. The resemblances between men
and animals, as well as between an animal of one species with that of
another, led to the supposition that all manner of hybrid beings =could=
be produced in nature. The fanciful combinations in the collections of the
=bârû=-priests, in part reflecting popular fancies, in part 'academical'
exercises of the fancies of the priests, formed the basis and
starting-point for the theory that at the beginning of time, pictured as a
condition of chaos and confusion, such hybrid beings represented the norm,
while with the substitution of law and order for chaos and confusion,
their occurrence was exceptional and portended some approaching deviation
from the normal state of affairs. It is not unusual in the history of
religious and of popular beliefs to find fancy and fanciful resemblances
leading to the belief in the reality. Once the thought suggested by the
manifold abnormalities occurring in the young of domestic animals and
among infants firmly rooted, there was no limit to the course of unbridled
fancy in this direction. Adding to this the practical importance attached
to birth-omens, what would be more natural than that with the development
and spread of systems of divination devised to interpret the strange
phenomena observed at birth, the belief in all kinds of monsters and
monstrosities should likewise have been developed and should have spread
with the extending influence of Babylonian-Assyrian divination.

Babylonian literature furnishes many examples of the persistency of such
beliefs. It is sufficient to refer (a) to the gigantic scorpion-men who
keep guard at the gate of the sun in the mountain Mašu and who are
described in the Gilgamesh epic[212] as 'terrible', whose very aspect is
death, (b) to Engidu, the companion of Gilgamesh, who is pictured as a man
with the body of a bull, and the horns of a bison[213], (c) to the monster
Tiamat in the creation tale pictured in art with the mouth and foreclaws
of a lion, wings and hind-feet of an eagle[214], or as a monstrous dragon
with the head of a serpent, fore feet of a panther, hind talons of an
eagle, or again described as a serpent of seven heads[215], and (d) to the
'mixed' creatures--man, bull or lion and eagle combined--above referred to
and that appear in such various forms in Babylonian and Assyrian art[216],
and reappear as sphinxes in Hittite[217] and Egyptian art. The
Hippocentaur in various forms also appears in the Babylonian art of the
Cassite period[218].

If we are correct in tracing the spread of Babylonian-Assyrian birth-omens
to the peoples of Asia Minor and thence to the Greeks and Romans, and in
associating the belief in all kinds of monstrous and fabulous beings with
these birth-omens and as a direct outcome of the fanciful combinations
embodied in the collections of the =bârû=-priests, the spread of this
belief would accompany the extension of the sphere of influence of
Babylonian-Assyrian divination and of Euphratean culture in general. The
thesis here proposed would, therefore, carry with it the assumption that
the fabulous creatures of Greek and Roman mythology, as well as the wide
spread belief in monstrosities of all kinds found in Greek and Roman
writers, and which belief through the influence of Greek and Roman ideas
was carried down to the middle ages and up to our own days, reverts in the
last instance to the Babylonian-Assyrian birth-omens.


The thesis that the fabulous figures of Greek mythology were suggested by
malformations was set forth some twelve years ago by Prof. Friedrich
Schatz in a monograph on '_Die griechischen Götter und die menschlichen
Mißgeburten_' (Wiesbaden 1901), in which he endeavored to show that the
conceptions of such beings as the Cyclops, Harpies, Centaurs and Sirens
were merely the fanciful elaborations of the impression made by actually
occurring abnormal phenomena in the case of infants. The cyclops (9 seq.
with illustrations) was suggested by the child born with one eye[219], the
siren (11 seq. with illustration) by the abnormal but actually occurring
phenomenon of a child born with the feet united[220]. A double headed god
like Janus (12 seq.) was suggested by the monstrosity of a child with two
heads and even such a tale as that of the head of the Gorgon, Schaatz
believes is based (24 seq. with illustrations) or, at all events,
suggested by the fact that a woman gave birth to an undeveloped embryo
which suggests a human head[221]. The three heads of Cerberus, Diana of
the many breasts and even harpies are similarly explained as suggested by
malformations or by excess parts or organs. Having reached my conclusions
long before I learned of Dr. Schaatz's monograph, I was naturally glad to
find that the idea had occurred to some one who had approached the subject
from an entirely different point of view and without reference to
birth-omens. I would not go so far as Dr. Schaatz in the attempt to trace
back =all= the fabulous creatures of mythology, to certain specific
malformations. Indeed some of his combinations are almost as fanciful as
the creatures themselves, e. g., his endeavor to explain the Prometheus
myth as suggested by 'extopy of the liver' (36), whereas the tale clearly
rests upon the old theory of the liver as the seat of the life[222], but
the main thought that the idea of monstrous beings was suggested by actual
malformations =plus= the factor of unbridled fancy is, I venture to think,
correct. We must, of course, add to human malformations the many abnormal
phenomena occurring in the young of animals in which the determining
factor is again the =significance= attached to all kinds of malformation
among human beings and animals as birth-omens. This factor must be taken
as our point of departure; it furnishes a reason not merely for the rise
of the belief in all kinds of fabulous creatures but also for the
elaboration and the persistency of the belief and for its embodiment in
the religious thought of peoples. It is because the malformation is an
omen that it leads to further beliefs and fancies. The direct association
of the belief in fabulous creatures with birth-omens in Babylonia and
Assyria lends a presumption in favor of the same association among the
Greeks. If, therefore, we can trace the attachment to birth-omens among
Greeks and Romans to the Euphrates Valley, we will have found a reasonable
explanation for the part played by monsters and fabulous beings in the
mythology and the religion of the Greeks and Romans. Further than this, it
is not necessary to go. It is not essential to the establishment of the
thesis to trace =all= the fabulous beings of classical mythology to actual
malformations. The factor of fancy would lead to the extension of the
sphere far beyond the original boundaries; nor is it necessary to find
parallels to all the creatures of Greek and Roman mythology in Babylonian
and Assyrian literature or art in order to justify the dependence of the
former upon Babylonian-Assyrian birth-omens. No doubt the Greeks, more
particularly, developed the conception in their own way, adding other
features to it, just as they modified Babylonian-Assyrian astrology in
adapting it to their environment and their way of thinking, and just as
the Etruscans and Romans modified the Babylonian-Assyrian
hepatoscopy[223]. All that is claimed here is that the =conception= of
monstrous and fabulous beings is a direct outcome of the importance
attached to Birth-omens; and since the Babylonians and Assyrians are the
only people who developed an elaborate system of divination in which the
interpretation of birth-omens constituted an important division, and which
spread with the extension of Euphratean culture to Asia Minor and thence
to Greece and Rome, I claim that the ultimate source of the belief itself
is to be sought in the Euphrates Valley.

Can we trace the conception likewise to the distant East? Dr. Bab in an
interesting essay on '_Geschlechtsleben, Geburt und Mißgeburten_' in the
_Zeitschr. für Ethnologie_[224] adopts the thesis of Dr. Schaatz and
applies it to account for the frequent representation of gods in India
with excess organs or an excess number of parts of the body--gods and
goddesses with many heads, with three or four eyes, various breasts and
more the like. The same would of course apply to representations of
Chinese gods and demons. Bab's paper is elaborately illustrated and the
juxtaposition of actual malformations with the representation of gods and
demons in India and China leaves no doubt of at least a partial dependence
of these artistic fancies upon actual occurrences in nature[225]. Again,
however, a warning is in order not to carry the thesis too far; nor is it
possible to furnish definite proofs for the spread of Babylonian-Assyrian
systems of divination to the distant East, though we now have some
evidence pointing to a spread in this direction of Babylonian-Assyrian
astrology[226] and perhaps also of Babylonian-Assyrian hepatoscopy[227].
In a general way, we are also justified in seeking for an early
connection--commercial, artistic and social--between the Euphrates Valley
and distant India and China, but for the present we must rest content with
the assertion of the possibility that Babylonian-Assyrian birth-omens, and
with this system of divination also the conception of and belief in hybrid
monsters and fabulous creatures spread eastwards as well as westwards.

How stands the case with Egypt, where we find sphinxes that represent a
combination of man and animal and where we encounter numerous gods
composed of human bodies with the heads of animals? The question of
foreign influences in the earlier art of Egypt is one that has as yet
scarcely been touched, and we are equally at sea as to the possibility of
very early connections between the Euphratean culture and that which arose
in the valley of the Nile. The fact that the oldest pyramid--that of King
Zoser at Sakkarah--is formed of a succession of terraces[228] like the
=zikkurats= or stage-towers of Babylonia and moreover is of brick was
regarded by Ihering[229] as an evidence of an influence exerted by
Babylonia upon Egypt. An isolated phenomenon is too slender a thread on
which to hang a weighty theory, and the step pyramid of Zoser can be
explained as a transition from a form of the =mastaba= to the genuine
pyramid, without recourse to foreign models. All attempts to find a
connection between the Egyptian hieroglyphics and the oldest hieroglyphics
forms from which the Babylonian cuneiform script developed have likewise
ended in negative results and the same is to be said of endeavors to find
any direct connection between Babylonian and Egyptian beliefs and rites
and myths and despite certain rather striking points of resemblance[230].
And yet it is difficult to suppress the impression one receives that much
in Egyptian art and in the Egyptian religion suggests early outside
influences. With Babylonia and Egypt in more or less close touch as far
back at least as 1700 B. C., and with Asiatic entanglements reverting to a
still earlier period, the possibility of some connection between the
Egyptian forms of the sphinx--the crouching lion with the human head, the
falcon-headed and ram-headed sphinxes--and the combinations of the human
face with bulls and lions in Babylonian art to which the Assyrians added
the wings, cannot be summarily set aside. The question as to the age of
the sphinx at Gizeh--the oldest of all--is still in abeyance. Maspero
ascribes it to the early Memphite art[231], Spiegelberg to the middle
kingdom[232], while others bring it down to the 18th dynasty. If we
accept Spiegelberg's date we will be close to the period when by general
consent the Mediterranean culture--including therefore Syria, Palestine
and Western Asia in general--exercised a decided influence on Egypt. It is
during the time of the new kingdom that the sphinxes become frequent, as
it is at this period that the tendency to represent the gods as a
combination of the human and animal form becomes prominent and reaches its
highest form of expression.

Now, to be sure, we have not as yet come across any traces of
Babylonian-Assyrian divination in any of its forms in Egypt, but that may
be due to the rationalistic character of the Egyptian religion in the
'official' form revealed by the monuments and the literature which, while
full of rites and ceremonials connected so largely with the cult of the
dead, is yet relatively free of magic or divination. It is possible,
however, that in the unofficial popular customs divination may have played
a greater part than we suspect. Be this as it may, the conception of
monstrous beings may have found its way into Egypt even without the
transfer of the practice of interpreting birth-omens. The thesis of
outside influences to account for the Egyptian sphinxes and for the
combination of the human and animal form as a means of representing gods
and goddesses, is on the whole more plausible than to assume that
Babylonians and Egyptians should have independently hit upon the idea of
carving sphinxes to protect the entrances to temples and palaces.
Naturally, we must again be on our guard not to carry the theory too far.
The form given to the images of the gods by the Egyptians suggests the
almost perfect blending of the human and animal, and as such is a distinct
expression of the genius of Egyptian art. All that is claimed here is that
the =thought= of reproducing hybrid and fabulous beings in art did not
arise in Egypt without some outside influences. Resemblances between the
human form and the features of animals may have suggested themselves to
all peoples without any influence exerted by one on the other, but in
order to take the further step, leading to the belief in the =actual=
existence of beings in which the human and the animal are combined, the
resemblances must have been fraught with some practical significance. This
condition, I hold, is fulfilled if the resemblances--as well as all kinds
of other abnormalities--are looked upon as =signs= sent for a specific
purpose i. e. to point to some unusual happening that may be confidently
expected. The monster in short presupposes what the word implies, that it
is a 'sign'--an omen of some kind.

A warning may also not be out of place against connecting the belief in
monsters and fabulous creatures with the mental processes that give rise
to totemistic beliefs. In so far as totemism implies the descent of a clan
or group from some animal, it rests in part upon the supposed resemblance
between man and animals. Without this feature the thought of a descent of
human beings from some animal would hardly have occurred to people, but
this is only one factor involved. Ignorance as to processes of nature in
bringing about a new life is an equally important factor; and there are
others. But totemism does not involve the combination of the human and the
animal form in one being. That combination belongs to an entirely
different process of thought, though it also has as its starting-point the
recognition of a resemblance between man and animals. The conception of
hybrid beings is allied to that of human creatures or of animals who
through defects or through an excess number of organs or of parts of the
body represent striking deviations from the normal. Both classes fall
within the category of monsters, i. e., they are signs sent for a specific
purpose. Descent from an animal totem, however, where the belief exists,
is not looked upon as abnormal, but on the contrary as the rule.

Still a third direction taken by the impression made upon man through the
recognition of a resemblance between him and certain species of the animal
world is represented by the belief--so widespread--of the possibility of
the change of the human form into the animal. References to such phenomena
are not infrequent in Latin Literatures. Pliny[233] refers to several
instances of women being transformed into men. Livy[234] also speaks of
this phenomenon as a matter of common belief; and it is merely another
phase of this same belief that we encounter in the famous Metamorphoses of
Ovid where the gods take on the form of animals, Io being changed to a cow
and back again to human form, Jupiter to a bull, Cadmus to a dragon, Medea
to a fish, and so on through quite a long list. Circe by virtue of her
powers can change men to swine, just as she transforms her rivals into
trees. Apuleius' famous tale of the Golden Ass where the hero is changed
into a talking ass rests upon the same deep-rooted belief, which appears
again in a modified form in the Jatakas or Birth-stories of India where
Buddha takes on the form of all kinds of animals and which lead to the
beast fables of Bidpai where animals are introduced at every turn who talk
and act as men[235]. Even such a tale as that of Balaam's talking ass
would not have arisen without the antecedent belief in the possibility of
a transformation of man to animals and the reverse. In fact the talking
animal in all fairy tales rests in the last instance on a metamorphosis.
But this metamorphosis has nothing to do with hybrid creatures or
monsters. The universal spread of totemistic beliefs preclude =a priori= a
single centre as a starting-point for such beliefs; and the same in all
probabilities holds good for the belief that men may be changed into
animals and the reverse. In both, however, the factor of the resemblance
between man and animals is undoubtedly involved. All that is claimed by my
thesis is that the development of this recognition of a resemblance
between man and animal in the direction which led to the belief in
fabulous creatures and monsters, that is to say combinations of man and
animal in one being, side by side with abnormalities through defective
organs or parts of the body, or through an excess in the number of the
organs or parts of the body is associated, wherever it is found, with
birth-omens; that is, with the observation of striking or peculiar
phenomena observed at the time of birth in the case of infants or the
young of animals and regarded as omens. =Monstra=, =prodigia=, =ostenta=
and =portenta= to use the terms employed by Latin writers. All these terms
convey the idea that such phenomena are signs sent by the gods as a means
of indicating what the gods have in mind, or, to put it more generally,
what the future has in store. This chain of ideas and conceptions and
beliefs is restricted to culture circles which have been subject to common


The history of monsters forms an interesting division in the annals of
mankind, and I should like in conclusion to call attention to the
persistency of this belief down to the threshhold almost of our own days.
Among the Romans up to the latest period the old law of either burning the
monsters or of throwing them into the sea was generally carried out[236].
This was done on the supposition that the monster was an ill omen
foreboding evil and which was sent as a punishment. Plutarch tells a
story[237] which despite the skeptical attitude assumed by the narrator,
shows that the same point of view prevailed among the Greeks. From the
Greeks and Romans the belief in all kinds of monsters and the view that
they were signs of divine anger was handed down to Christian Europe.
Precisely as among the Babylonians and Assyrians, no distinction was drawn
between monstrosities that actually occurred--such as infants, or the
young of animals with two heads, or with only one eye, or with no nose, or
an otherwise defective face, or with an excess number of hands or feet in
the case of children, or an excess number of feet in the case of animals
and the like[238]--and such as are purely imaginary, or in which the
imagination plays at least a leading factor.

A learned Jesuit, Conrad Lycosthenes, published an elaborate work in 1557
under the title =Prodigiorum ac Ostentorum Chronicon= (Basel) in which he
put together all miracles, miraculous happenings and strange phenomena
from the creation of the world down to his days. This is only one of a
number of compilations of this character, the significant feature of which
is the jumbling together into one class, of miracles, of unusual phenomena
in the heavens and on earth, of the birth of malformations--human or
animal--including monstrosities and fanciful hybrid creatures,--all being
viewed as signs sent by a divine power. Lycosthenes includes in his
compilation the accounts of ancient writers and later travellers of
peoples of remarkable formation such as the Scipodes and Monomeri (10) of
whom Pliny[239] reports that they have only one foot, of people who have
the heads of dogs (11), of others living in Western Ethiopia (8) who have
four eyes, of the Ipopodes in Asia (8) who have the feet of horses, and of
the Scythians (ib.) who have only one eye, or of people have no heads, of
others with eyes, nose and mouth on the breast (9), or who have six arms,
(14) or who are provided with hoofs and horns, or of women (13) who lay
their young in the form of eggs.

Lycosthenes' work is elaborately illustrated and so he portrays for us
these strange beings, as well as men with the heads of dogs (11),
hippocentaurs (12), men with six arms (14), baldheaded women with beards,
and people in the region of the North Sea who have ears that cover the
whole body (13), mermaids, tritons, satyrs, fauns (10, 28, 218, 311, 317)
and harpies (31). The whole army of fabulous beings of mythology and
folk-lore is brought before us[240], including the remarkable creature
whom Gessner in his great work on Animals[241] describes as 'a virgin with
human face, arms and hands, body of a dog, wings of a bird, claws of a
lion and the tail of a dragon'. Naive credulity =alone= would be
insufficient to account for such fancies, but if we start from the deep
impression made by malformations of all kinds from the point of view of
birth-omen divination, the exaggeration of such malformations through the
play of the imagination would follow from the inherent fondness of human
nature for the marvellous. A large part of Lycosthenes' work is taken up
with the malformations and monstrosities mentioned in classical
writers--Pliny, Livy, Cicero, Valerius Maximus, Julius Obsequens, Aelian,
etc. which he has collected with great patience. Passing beyond classical
days, he is at equal pains to put together all records of unusual
phenomena, adding generally the attendant circumstances or the events that
followed, which the sign was regarded as portending. All kinds of
monstrosities are described, together with the date and the place of their
appearance. A lamb with a swine's head (136), born in Macedonia presaged
the war with Phillip which soon thereafter broke out. A double-headed ox
born in the year 573 B. C. (309) presaged the defeat of the Persians. A
child without arms (316) and the tail of a fish instead of legs, born in
Thrace in 601 A. D., was ordered to be killed. In 854 A. D. a boy attached
to a dog was born (352, see the illustration). This happened in the days
of Lotharius Caesar, duke of Saxony, who soon thereafter died. In 858 A.
D. (353) a monstrosity of mixed shape was born and all kinds of
misfortunes followed. Twins united at the loins born in England in 1112
are brought into connection with a victory of King Boleslaus of Poland and
the death of Waldrich, duke of Saxony. He carries his chronicle beyond
1543[242] in which year a human monstrosity was born at Cracow, with
flames starting out of the eyes, mouth and nose, with horns on its head,
with the tail of a dog, with faces of apes on its breast and legs, with
the eyes of a cat and with claws. It lived for four hours, cried
'Vigilate, Dominus Deus vester adventat' and expired. The point of view
throughout is the time-honored one that the monstrosity is a =monstrum=--a
sign sent by an angered deity, just as on the other hand as a trace of the
pristine ignorance of the processes of nature, the belief continued to
prevail that such monstrosities were due to the intercourse of women with
demons--either wilfully accomplished by the woman, or without her
knowledge. Martin in his _Histoire des Monstres_ devotes an entire
chapter[243] to illustrations of this belief, which is advocated as late
as the year 1836 by Goerres[244], the Professor of Philosophy at the
Munich University, and even as late as the year 1864 by Delaporte in a
book on the devil[245]. Such a belief which involves the possibility of
pregnancy without the ordinary sexual intercourse and which has left its
traces far and wide[246] in the religious history of mankind must have
acted as a powerful agent in maintaining also the belief in all kinds of
monstrosities that could never have occurred. The demons naturally could
do anything, and thus a very simple theory was evolved to account for such
monstrosities and which supplemented the older one[247] that accounted for
the simpler hybrid beings as due to the intercourse of a human being with
an animal. The cooperation of the demons, moreover, was a natural
correlative to the belief that deviations from the normal course of things
were omens. Even Christian theology found no difficulty in assuming that
God permitted a demon to exercise his power over those who had through sin
forfeited the Divine protection, with the result that in many cases the
unfortunate mother was brought before a tribunal and not infrequently
suffered death for the sin of intercourse with some demon. Martin's work,
above referred to, also furnishes abundant evidence of the persistency
both of the belief in monsters and of their being regarded as omens even
in the scientific world down to a very late date. He tells the story[248]
of the birth of twins, united at the breast, in the year 1569. The royal
physician Jacques Roy was commissioned to make an autopsy and to report on
the result. He closes his report with a poem, glorifying the Catholic
Church and vigorously denouncing the Protestant movement. More than this,
he concludes from the fact that one of the twins received the baptismal
rite before dying, while the other died without baptism that the Catholic
church would survive the Hugenot heresy. In 1605 twins united at the
umbilicum were born in Paris, and despite the fact that the Faculty of
Medicine of Paris presented a scientific report, accounting for the
monstrosity through the fact that 'the semen was too plentiful for one
body and two small for two', a chronicler in embodying the report of the
physicians in his account presents his view that the monstrosity was a
symbol of the wickedness of Papism and of Mohammedanism. Between 1539 and
1605 we have the Edict of Nantes which in rendering civil liberty to the
Hugenots brought about a reversion of feeling in their favor. The tables
are therefore turned, and the monstrosity is now a sign sent against the
Catholic Church. The chronicler breaks out in rhyme as follows[249]:

  "Je tiens que ces deux fronts, cette face jumelle,
  Sont deux religions, dont l'une est qui s'appelle
  Papisme, et son autheur est l'antechrist romain,
  De l'autre est Mahumet avec son Alcorain".

The persistency of the belief in monsters even in scientific or
quasi-scientific circles and of regarding monsters as omens no doubt had
much to do with the fact that a really scientific theory to account for
such malformations as actually do occur was not put forth until the year
1826 when Etienne Geoffroy St. Hilaire in reporting to the French Academy
of Medicine on a mummy found at Hermopolis[250] and which appeared to have
been that of a human monstrosity, enunciated the view which led to the
science of Teratology, as a branch of modern medicine[251].

But despite the results of scientific investigation which so strikingly
justify Aristotle's protest against regarding abnormal phenomena in the
young of animals and of infants as =contra naturam=, the strong desire for
the marvellous still helps to maintain at least the belief in monsters,
even if the corollary that the monster is a birth-omen has disappeared.

The believers of the Middle Ages have been succeeded by the deceivers of
the 19th and 20th centuries--the naive Lycosthenes by the shrewder
Barnums[252] who in order to supply the demand created by the love of the
marvellous have manufactured their monsters. To be sure even this is not
quite new under the sun, for Pliny[253] tells us that he saw a
hippocentaur which was brought to Rome from Thessalonica at the order of
the Emperor Claudius and which, as it subsequently turned out, was the
embalmed body of a horse to which a human foetus had been skillfully
attached. The latest companion piece to this neat bit of trickery is to be
found in a description of a fish with the head of a man that was exhibited
in the Crimea in 1911--fished up in the Pacific Ocean[254]!


To sum up the results of our investigations in a series of propositions:

1. The Babylonian-Assyrian birth-omens which can be traced back to at
least 2000 B. C. rest on the impression made by the mystery of a new life
emerging from another.

2. A leading factor in the interpretation of the omens was the recognized
resemblance--often striking--between the features of an infant and that of
some animal, or of an animal to some other.

3. As Babylonian-Assyrian hepatoscopy led to the study of the anatomy of
the liver, and Babylonian-Assyrian astrology to the study of the phenomena
in the heavens, so the resemblance between man and animals became the
basis for the study of Human Physiognomy, which when it came to the Greeks
and Romans was made a means of determining the character of the
individual, just as Babylonian-Assyrian astrology when transferred to
Greece and Rome was applied to the individual as a means of casting his
horoscope, i. e., for determining the general course of his life.

4. This same factor of the resemblance between men and animals in
conjunction with the ignorance as to the processes of nature led to the
belief in all kinds of hybrid creatures, composed of human and animal
organs or features.

5. This belief underlies the fabulous creatures of Greek and Roman
mythology, and also helps to explain the representation of gods as partly
animalic in Egypt, in India and in China.

6. The recognition of a resemblance between man and animals is universal,
and besides leading in connection with birth-omens to the belief in the
actual existence of beings composed of partly human and partly animal
organs or parts of the body, developed quite independently of such
associations also in three other directions, leading on the one hand to
the belief in the descent of a clan or group from some animal, and on the
other to the belief in a transformation of a human being into an animal
and =vice versa=, and thirdly to the Beast Fables of India in which beasts
that talk like human beings are introduced.

7. The theory set forth in Berosus of a time when mixed creatures of all
kinds existed reflects the fanciful combinations found in the collections
of the =bârû=-priests.

8. The Roman view of a monster as a 'sign' (monstrum), sent as an
indication of some event of a disastrous character, is directly traceable
to the Babylonian-Assyrian point of view of malformations of all kinds and
deviations from the normal as birth-omens.

9. From Rome this view passed over to mediaeval Europe, where under
Christian influence the monster became a 'sign' sent by an angered deity
as a warning and as a punishment for sins.

10. The pristine ignorance of the course of nature, leading to the
assumption that conception could take place without sexual intercourse,
had its natural outcome in the belief that women giving birth to
monstrosities had intercourse--wilful or unknown to them--with demons as
emissaries of the devil, or with the devil himself. This attitude served
to maintain the belief in monsters down to the threshhold of modern

11. The Roman law of burning the monstrous birth or of throwing it into
the sea was maintained for a long time and led also to the punishment of
the woman who through supposed intercourse with a demon had given birth to
a monster.

12. The view taken of monsters as a sign sent by an angered Deity had much
to do with preventing the rise of a scientific theory to account for
actual malformations of all kinds.

13. The rise of Teratology as a branch of medical science in the 19th
century represents the closing chapter in the history of monsters, which
is thus to be traced back to Babylonian-Assyrian birth-omens--one of the
three chief branches of Babylonian-Assyrian divination that all made their
way with the spread of the influence of Euphratean culture throughout Asia
Minor and westwards to Greece and Rome, and that may also have passed to
the distant East.

[=Addendum=, to page 43, Note 2.]

Porta, who in his =Della Fisonomia dell' Huomo= (Venice edition, 1648,
chapters XIII and XIV, or Latin edition =De Humana Physiognomia=,
Frankfurt 1618, chapter IX) ascribes to Plato the opinion that a man who
resembles an animal is likely to have the traits of that animal, appears
to base this view on such a passage as Phaedo § 31, referred to in the
note, and which is given as the reference in the German translation of
Porta's work. The passage, however, hardly admits of this interpretation,
though it would appear from Porta, who evidently does not stand alone in
his opinion, that from Plato's view that according to the life led by a
man his soul will be transferred into an animal having the traits
manifested by the individual, the corollary was drawn that a man who
resembles an animal has a soul which shows the traits of the animal which
he resembles.


(Assyrian words italicized)

  Acephaly 25

  Actiolinus, likened to a hunting dog 47

  Adamantius 44

  Aelian 57. 75

  Agnathy 34

  Alexander the Great, likened to a lion 47

  Algemundus, King of Lombards 8. 74

  =alluttu= (dolphin) 40

  Androgynous formations 11. 51. 56

  Animals 8. 12. 26. 40 seq. 51 seq.
    -- with two to seven heads 62

  Anus, closed 35. 51 seq.

  Ape, human nose compared with ape's 46

  Aprosopy 38

  Apuleius 71

  Aristotle 44. 56. 59. 77

  Arms, one arm short 34

  Arnobius 53

  Ashurbanapal (Assyrian ruler) 6. 23

  Ashurbanapal's Library 6

  Ass, born by woman 40
    -- Golden Ass 71
    -- human face compared with 46 seq.
    -- talking 71

  Astrology 1
    -- underlying theory 3
    -- among Greeks and Romans 3. 50. 53. 79
    -- among Etruscans 3
    -- among Hittites 3
    -- in Europe 4

  Astrology in China 4
    -- official reports 9
    -- leads to astronomy 43
    -- horoscope 79

  Azag-Bau (female ruler) 11 seq.

  Bab, E. 66

  Babylonia and Egypt 68

  Balaam's ass 71

  Baldness, a sign of lasciviousness 47

  Baptism 5

  Barnum, P. T. 78

  =bârû= (diviner) 3. 7. 9 seq. 12. 18 seq. 37. 54. 59 seq. 64. 79

  Baur, Paul V. 64

  Beard, child born with 39

  Belly, open 52

  Berosus 57. 62

  Bezold, Carl 4

  Bird, sending out birds 2
    -- born by woman 41
    -- child with mouth of 61

  Birnbaum, R. 34. 37

  Birth customs 5

  Birth-omens 2
    -- basis of 4
    -- mystery of birth 4
    -- texts 6 seq.
    -- official reports 9
    -- basis of interpretation 11 seq. 14 seq. 16 seq. 19. 20. 22 seq.
    -- combination of texts 19
    -- animal 9-28
    -- human 28-41
    -- lead to study of human physiognomy 43 seq.
    -- as warnings 44
    -- among Romans 52 seq.
    -- give rise to belief in hybrid and fabulous beings 62
    -- in India 67
    -- in China 67
    -- in Egypt 67
    -- in Europe 72

  Blood, in rivers 51 seq.
    -- , rain of blood 51

  Boghaz-Keui 58

  Boissier, Alfred 11

  Boleslaus, King of Poland 75

  Boll, Franz 4

  Bouché-Leclercq, A. 41

  Boy see Child

  Brachyprosopy 25

  Buddha 71

  Bull, with human head 61
    -- Jupiter changed to bull 71

  Cadmus, changed into a dragon 71

  Caesar, Julius, his horse had human feet 52

  Calf, two-headed 74

  Cat, human face compared with cat's 46

  Cerberus 61. 65

  Chavannes, Eduard 67

  Chicken, as offspring of mule 56

  Child, with mouth of bird 33
    -- without mouth 33
    -- androgynous 51. 62. 74
    -- with one hand 51
    -- with three feet 51
    -- with three feet and one hand 51
    -- with closed anus 51 seq.
    -- with open belly 52
    -- with four feet, four eyes, four ears, and double genital members 51
    -- with two faces, four hands and four feet 62
    -- with face of an ass 62
    -- with caudal appendix 73
    -- with club-foot 73
    -- with six toes 73
    -- with elephant's head 74
    -- with three legs 74
    -- with three legs and three hands 71
    -- with four legs 74
    -- with four hands and four legs 74
    -- with beard and four eyes 74
    -- two-headed 74
    -- without eyes or nose 74
    -- without arms or feet 74
    -- without eyes, no arms, and fish's tail instead of feet 74
    -- speaking 52. 74
    -- speaking in womb 74

  China 67
    -- astrology in China 4

  Cicero 53 seq. 57. 74

  Claudius (Roman Emperor) 71

  Clay, A. T. 64

  Club-foot 73

  Cos 57

  Cow 12. 71

  Cracow, monster of 75

  Cripple 38

  Croesus (King of Lydia) 57 seq.

  Cross-breeding 44. 59

  Cumont, Franz 4

  Cyclops 64

  Dante, dog forehead 46

  Deaf-mute 38

  Death (see also Funeral rites) 5

  Delaporte, Albert 76

  Demon 20. 42. 75

  Diana of many breasts 65

  Divination, methods 1 seq.
    -- basis of interpretation 11

  Diviner see =bârû=

  Döderlein, Albert 8

  Dog 12. 40. 59. 61
    -- Plato compared to a 44. 47
    -- born by a woman 40. 59
    -- with four bodies and fish tails 61
    -- with six divisions of foot 73

  Dragon 63

  Dwarf 39

  Eagle 61
    -- human nose compared with beak of 46 seq.

  Ear, deformities and omens 19 seq. 32 seq.

  Egypt 67 seq. 77

  Elephant, born by woman 74
    -- child with head of 52

  Ellenberger-Scheunert 26

  Engidu 63

  Enlil (deity) 27

  Esarhaddon (Assyrian ruler) 10

  Ethiopia 73

  Etruscans 3. 52 seq. 54 seq. 58

  Eusebius 61

  Ewe see Sheep

  Excess number of limbs and organs 8. 10. 20 seq. 36 seq. 51

  Fabulous beings 61 seq. 66 seq.

  Fauns 61

  Features see Physiognomy.

  Feet, six toes on each foot 35
    -- six toes on right foot 35
    -- like those of a turtle 36
    -- attached to belly 36
    -- only one foot, which is attached to belly 36
    -- child with three feet 36
    -- child with four feet 36
    -- horse with human feet 52

  Festivals at transition periods 5 seq.

  Fingers, one missing 34
    -- six on right hand 34

  Fish, born by woman 40
    -- dogs with fish tails 61
    -- men and other creatures with fish tails 61
    -- Medea changed to a fish 71

  Foetus, double 9. 13 seq. 15 seq.

  Fox, born by woman 59

  Foerster, Richard 44

  Frazer, J. G. 5

  Funeral rites 5

  =ganni= 28

  Genital members, intact 36. 52
    -- missing 35

  Gessner, Conrad 74

  Gilgamesh 63

  Gizeh 68

  Goat 12
    -- men with legs and horns of 61
    -- goat-fish 61

  Goerres, Johann Joseph von 75

  Gorgon 65

  Greek and Roman mythology 64 seq. 66

  Greeks and Romans 58

  Guinard, L. 37. 40. 73. 77

  Hand, child with one hand 51

  Hare, born by mare 56

  Hartland, S. G. 5

  Haruspices see Etruscans

  Hepatoscopy (see also Liver) 1. 50. 66. 78

  Herbig, G. 58

  Hermopolis, mummy 77

  Herodotus 56

  Hippocentaurs 61. 63 seq.

  Hirst and Piersol 64. 75

  Hittites 3. 58
    -- omens 10

  Horse, in birth-omens 12
    -- with human feet 52
    -- mare giving birth to a hare 56
    -- hippocentaurs 61
    -- men with horses' feet 61
    -- three-footed 74
    -- five footed 74
    -- with two tails and mane of lion 62
    -- with human head 62
    -- with dog's head 62

  Hybrid formations 60 seq. 67 seq.

  Ihering, Rudolph von 68

  India 67

  Infant see Child

  Io, changed into a cow 71

  Ipopodes, have horses' feet 73

  =isbu= (foetus) 13. 19. 60. 62

  Ishbi-urra (Babylonian ruler), omen 28

  Jacobs, Joseph 71

  Janus 65

  Jastrow, Morris, jr. 1. 2. 3. 4. 7. 10. 13. 23. 26. 28. 29. 36. 39. 43.
      49. 57. 58. 60. 63. 65. 66. 67

  Jatakas 71

  Jaw, missing 34

  Julius Obsequens 35. 50 seq. 57. 74

  =khupipi= 24

  Kitt, Theodor 25. 75

  =lamassu= (winged lion or bull) 62

  Lamb see Sheep

  Lavater, J. C. 47. 48. 50

  Leg, missing 36

  Lion, lamb like unto 23 seq. 53. 57. 59
    -- born by woman 40. 53 seq. 57. 59
    -- Alexander's head compared to lion's 47
    -- =šedu, lamassu= with head of 61

  Lips, missing 34
    -- upper lip projecting 34

  Liver 1
    -- as seat of soul 2
    -- signs on 2
    -- parts of 2
    -- divination texts 6
    -- official reports 9
    -- divination 1. 44
    -- clay models 58

  Livy 39. 71. 74. 75

  Lotharius Caesar, Duke of Saxony 75

  Lu-Bat (planet) 13

  Luschan, Felix von 63

  Lycosthenes, Conrad 8. 39. 57. 75 seq. 78.

  Macedonia, monster of 75

  Macrobius 55

  Malformations 8. 19. 29 seq. 32 seq. 36 seq. 56

  Marduk Epic 61

  =marratum= (rainbow) 23

  Marriage customs 5

  Martin, Ernest 72. 75 seq. 77

  Maspero, Gaston 68

  Medea, changed into a fish 71

  Medicine, early 42

  Meles (King of Sardis) 57

  Mermaids 61

  Metamorphosis, of men into animals, of women into men 71

  Milk, in lakes 51

  Monomeri, have only one foot 73

  Monstrosities 8. 10. 20. 29 seq. 33 seq. 44. 51 seq. 54 seq. 60 seq.
      72 seq.

  Monstrum 55. 60. 79

  Mouth, child with mouth of bird 33
    -- child without mouth 33
    -- malformation of mouth 56

  Mule, giving birth to chicken 56
    -- three-footed, five-footed 74

  Multiple births 8. 17 seq. 51 seq. 59

  Naram-Sin (Babylonian ruler), omens 10

  Nergal (god of pestilence) 39 seq.

  Nergal-eṭir (diviner) 10

  Neubert, Fritz 49

  Nikippos 57

  Nostrils, missing 34

  Official and unofficial interpretations 16 seq. 19. 34 seq. 54

  Owl, Vitellius likened to 47

  Ox, born by woman 40
    -- human face compared with 46 seq.
    -- talking 52. 74

  Palestine 69

  Pathology, human and animal 7 seq.

  Periander 72

  Perokomy 25

  Phillip of Macedonia 75

  Phlegon 71

  Physiognomy, study of 8. 23 seq. 43 seq. 70
    -- among Greeks 43 seq. 49
    -- Porta's work 45 seq.
    -- Lavater's work 45. 47 seq.
    -- decline of study 48 seq.
    -- as indication of character 45 seq.
    -- in Europe 45 seq. 49

  Pied d'equin (club-foot) 73

  Piersol see Hirst

  Pig, in birth-omens 12
    -- with five divisions of hoof 73

  Plato, views on resemblances between men and animals 43 seq. 80
    -- compared with dog 46 seq.

  Pliny 8. 39. 52. 71. 74. 75. 78

  Ploss-Bartels 5

  Plutarch 72

  Polemon 44

  Porta, G. B. 45 seq. 80

  Portents 51

  Prodigium 55 seq.

  Prometheus myth 65

  Pseudo-Aristotle 44

  Pyramids 68

  Puberty 5

  Rain of stones, oil, blood 51

  Raven, noses compared with beak of 46

  Resemblances, between animals 23 seq. 44 seq. 62
    -- between infants and animals 40. 44 seq. 62. 78
    -- protest against 47 seq. 77 seq.

  Richard III, born with teeth 39

  Roscius 55

  Rossbach, Otto 35. 51

  Roy, Jacques 76

  =sâ= (animal) 40

  St. Hilaire Etienne Geoffrey 77

  Sakkarah 68

  Sargon (Babylonian ruler), omens 10

  Satyrs 61

  Schaatz, Friedrich 64 seq.

  Scheil, Vincent 12

  Schwalbe, Ernst 67

  Scipodes, have only one foot 73

  Scythians, have only one eye 73

  =šedu= (winged lion or bull) 62

  Se-ma Tsien 67

  Sergius Galba (Roman Emperor), likened to an eagle 47

  Serpent, born by woman 40. 52

  Shakespeare's Henry V 39

  Sheep, animal of sacrifice 2
    -- prominence in hepatoscopy 12
    -- omens 13 seq. 19 seq. 23 seq.
    -- resemblance to lion 23 seq.
    -- resemblance to infant 40
    -- color of 55
    -- with feet of a lion 62
    -- with feet of lion, head of dog in front, six feet long and bristles
       of a swine 62
    -- with feet of lion, head of dog, tail of swine 62
    -- with two heads, two tails and dog's feet 62
    -- with two heads, two feet, dog's hair 62
    -- with four division of hoof 73
    -- without ears 73
    -- two-headed 74
    -- with swine's head 74

  Siren 64

  Siren formation 40

  Socrates, compared with stag 47

  Sow 10

  Sphinxes 60. 68

  Spiegelberg, Wilhelm 68 seq.

  Stag, human nose compared with stag's 46 seq.

  Still-birth 38

  Subartu (older name of Assyria) 27

  Suetonius 52

  Sun at night 51

  Swine, born by woman 40
    -- human nose compared with swine's 46
    -- men changed to 71
    -- two-headed 74
    -- with human head 74
    -- with human hands and feet 74

  Syria 69

  Tacitus 55

  Talking infant 39. 52. 57 seq.

  Teeth, child born with 39

  Teratology 77

  =tertu= (omen) 13

  Testicles, missing 35

  Thales 72

  Thigh, missing 35

  Thompson, R. C. 11

  Thrace, monster of 75

  Thulin, Carl 54 seq.

  =tigri ili= (dwarf) 39

  Toes, six on foot 35

  Torches in heaven 51

  Totemism 70. 79

  Transition periods 5

  Tritons 61

  Turtle, child with turtle's hands and feet 35 seq.

  Twins 28 seq.
    -- united at the back 74
    --   "    "   "  breast 76
    --   "    "   "  umbilicum 76

  Ungnad, Arthur 61

  Urumuš (Babylonian ruler), omen 10

  Valerius Maximus 52. 56. 75

  Van Gennep, Arnold 5

  Virolleaud, Charles 37

  Vitellius (Roman Emperor), likened to owl 47

  Walde, Alois 55

  Waldrich, Duke of Saxony 75

  Ward, W. H. 64

  Winged human figures 61. 63

  Woman, giving birth to elephant, to serpent, to seven children 74

  Wuelker, Richard 57

  Xerxes 56

  Zimmern, Heinrich 61. 63

  Zoser (Egyptian ruler) 68


[1] Embodied in detail in the author's _Religion Babyloniens und
Assyriens_ II 203-969 to be referred to hereafter as Jastrow _Religion_.
See also various special articles by the writer such as "Signs and Names
for the Liver in Babylonian" (Zeitschr. f. Assyr. XX 105-129). "The Liver
in Antiquity and the Beginnings of Anatomy" (Trans. of the College of
Physicians of Phila. XXIX 117-138). "The Liver in Babylonian Divination"
(Proc. of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Soc. of Phila. XXV 23-30). "The
Liver as the Seat of the Soul" (Studies in the History of Religions
presented to C. H. Toy 143-169). "Sign and Name for Planet in Babylonian"
(Proc. Amer. Philos. Society XLVII 141-156). "Hepatoscopy and Astrology in
Babylonia and Assyria" (ib. XLVII 646-676). "Sun and Saturn" (Revue
d'Assyriologie VII No. 2), and the general survey in the author's _Aspects
of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria_ (N. Y. 1911),
Chapter III and IV.

[2] The field of divination was gradually extended so that practically
every unusual occurrence or every occurrence that even aroused attention
was regarded as an omen. Among these miscellaneous classes of omens we may
distinguish as distinct subdivisions (a) dreams, (b) phenomena connected
with rivers and canals, (c) movements of animals--chiefly serpents, dogs,
sheep and certain birds like ravens and falcons; also mice and rats, and
various insects as roaches and locusts, (d) phenomena in houses and
temples, including probably (as in Leviticus, Chap. 14) suspicious looking
marks or spots, (e) peculiarities and diseases of any portion of the human
frame. No doubt the list can be still further extended.

[3] See Hepatoscopy and Astrology in Babylonia and Assyria (Proc. Amer.
Philos. Society XLVII 646 sq.)

[4] The Greek and Roman method of sending out birds and noting their
flight is another example of voluntary divination, and so is the ancient
Arabic method of selecting arrows, writing certain words on them, throwing
them before the image or symbol of a deity and as they fell, reading the
oracle sent by the deity.

[5] See the details in the writer's 'The Liver as the Seat of the Soul'.
(Toy Anniversary volume 143-168.)

[6] See Jastrow, _Religion_ II 120 sq. and "The Liver as the Seat of the
Soul" (Toy Anniversary volume) 158-165.

[7] See Cumont, _Fatalisme Astrale et Religions Antiques_ (Revue
d'Histoire et de Littérature Religieuse 1912); also the same author's
_Astrology and Religion among the Greeks and Romans_ (N. Y. 1912).

[8] Bezold and Boll, _Reflexe astrologischer Keilinschriften bei
griechischen Schriftstellern_ (Heidelberg Akad. d. Wiss. 1911); see also
Cumont, _Babylon und die griechische Astronomie_ (Neue Jahrbücher f. das
klass. Altertum XXVIII Abt. I. 1-10).

[9] See Jastrow, _Religion_ II 745 sq. and Boll, _Der ostasiatische
Tierzyklus im Hellenismus_ (Leiden 1912). I hope to treat this phase of
the subject more fully in a special article. See for the present the
summary of my paper on this subject in the Actes du IV{ère} Congrès
International d'Histoire des Religions (Leiden 1913) 106-111 and Records
of the Past (Washington) Vol. XII (1913) 12-16.

[10] See Hartland, _Primitive Paternity_--especially the summary in Chap.
VII, and also Frazer, _Totemism and Exogamy_ I 93 seq.; 191 seq. etc.

[11] See Ploß-Bartels, _Das Weib_ (2{d} ed.) Chap. XXXII; _Das Kind_ Chap.
III, VIII, IX and Van Gennep, _Rites de Passage_ Chap. V.

[12] Part XXVII and Part XXVIII Pl. 1-42 of _Cuneiform Texts from
Babylonian Tablets etc. in the British Museum_, are taken up with texts of
this character.

[13] Parts XX, XXX and XXXI and Pl. 1-42 of Part XXVIII represent the bulk
of this section of the Library so far as recovered by Layard, Rassam and
George Smith. Previous to the British Museum publication, Alfred Boissier
had published three volumes of divination texts of all kinds under the
title of _Documents Assyriens relatifs aux Présages_ (Paris 1894-99) and
in his _Choix de Textes relatifs a la Divination Assyro-Babylonienne_
(Paris 1905-06).

[14] The chief publications of astrological texts is by Ch. Virolleaud
under the title _L'Astrologie Chaldéenne_ (Paris 1903-13), consisting up
to the present of four parts and two supplements containing texts, and
four parts with two supplements containing the transliteration of these
texts. Besides this publication, M. Virolleaud has published numerous
fragments of texts in the periodical _Babyloniaca_, founded and edited by
him. Cun. Texts, Part XXX Pl. 43-50 also contains astrological texts; Part
XXXIII Pl. 1-12 are aids to astrology.

[15] Chiefly by Boissier in the two works mentioned in note 2 on p. 6.

[16] Copious specimens of liver divinations texts in German translation
with comments will be found in the author's _Religion Babyloniens und
Assyriens_ II 227-412; of Astrological Texts _ib_ II 458-740; Oil and
Water, Divination _ib_ II 749-775; of Animal omens _ib_ II 775-826; of
Birth omens _ib_ II 837-941 and a summary view of the miscellaneous omens
_ib_ II 946-969.

[17] The same is the case with the collections of liver signs and to a
large extent also in the case of the astrological collections.

[18] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 24 Cases of more than three births at one time
are extremely rare. A case of quintuplets in Groningen in the year 1897 is
vouched for by Prof. Döderlein of Munich and one was reported in the
newspapers recently as occurring in the United States. A case of
sextuplets is noted by Vasalli in the Boll. Med. della Svizzera Italiana,
1894, Nos. 3 and 4. This seems to be the highest mark, though Pliny, Hist.
Nat. VII 3, on the authority of Trogus records that a woman in Egypt gave
birth to seven infants at one time; Lycosthenes, Prodigiorum ac.
Ostentorum Chronicon (Basel 1557) p. 284 reports the same number born in
the days of Algemundus, King of the Lombards.

[19] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 3.

[20] E. g. Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 45 (K. 12050); XXVIII Pl. 42, 20.

[21] In the same way we have hundreds of _official_ reports of occurences
and observed phenomena in the heavens with the interpretations taken from
the astrological texts; and we also have a large number of official
reports of the same character dealing with the results of the inspection
of the liver of a sacrificial animal, killed and inspected at a given time
for the purpose of obtaining an answer to a question put. These reports
are made in all cases to the rulers, which thus stamps them as official.
See copious examples in Jastrow, _Religion_, II 227-271; 275-319 (Liver
texts); 458-542; 578-584; 613-616; 639-652; 656-673; 688-692 (Astrological

[22] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 28.

[23] The first omen is taken from Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 26, 11; the second
from ib. line 10.

[24] The omens were always supposed to bear on events of a public import;
hence the reports may always be assumed to be addressed to the reigning
king, even when this is not expressly stated.

[25] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 45.

[26] From other sources (cf. Jastrow, _Religion_ II 467, 3) we know that
Nergal-eṭir flourished during the reign of Esarhaddon, King of Assyria
(705-668 B. C.).

[27] Cun. Texts XXXVII Pl. 30.

[28] The text from which this omen is quoted is found. Cun. Texts XXVII
Pl. 48, 2-4.

[29] See examples in Jastrow, _Religion_ II 227-244 (Sargon and Naram-Sin
omens); 333 and 392 (murder of a ruler Urumu); 555, (invasion of Babylonia
by Hittites); see also 226, 3; 843, 7 and articles by the writer in
Zeitschr. f. Assyr. XXI 277-282 and Revue Sémitique XVII 87-96.

[30] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 6; also Boissier, _Documents Assyriens_ 185 (the
first publication of this text, the importance of which was recognized by
Boissier) and Thompson, _Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of
Nineveh and Babylon_ (London 1900) Nr. 276.

[31] I. e. A child of the harem--not the legitimate heir.

[32] Les plus anciennes Dynasties connues de Sumer-Accad. Comptes Rendus
de l'Acad. des Inscript. et Belles-Lettres 1911, 606-621.

[33] The position occupied by the sheep in divination leads in astrology
to the use of the Sumerian term Lu-Bat, i. e., 'dead sheep' as the
designation of the planets, the association of ideas being 'dead sheep' ==
=têrtu= 'omen' and then == planet, because the planets were regarded as
omens. In the larger sense, the moon and sun were included among the
planets. See Jastrow, _Religion_ II p. 448 sq. and the article "Sign and
Name for Planets in Babylonian" quoted in note 1 on p. 1.

[34] See Jastrow _Religion_ II 845, 1 and 847, 68.

[35] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 25-26 completed by the duplicate Pl. 27-28.

[36] Shown by the continuation of the text. Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 26.

[37] I. e. twisted up in a heap.

[38] An interpretation evidently based on the fact of a destructive storm
that swept over the land after the birth of a monstrosity as described in
the omen.

[39] Three interpretations, gathered from various documents and here

[40] Not infrequently a birth-omen is interpreted as applying to the owner
of the mother lamb or to the household in which the lamb was born,--but
generally as an alternative to an _official_ interpretation bearing on
public affairs. See e. g. below pp. 15 and 16.

[41] See below p. 16.

[42] I. e., lying at the mouth.

[43] I. e., presumably the plantation and house of the owner of the mother

[44] The opposite to this is 'throne will support throne', i. e., there
will be mutual support.

[45] I. e., the stall of the owner of the mother lamb.

[46] I. e., the property of the owner of the mother lamb will be

[47] I. e., the second issues from the belly of the other, or appears to
do so.

[48] Whatever occurred to the king or to a member of his household was an
omen for the _general_ welfare under the ancient view of the king as the
representative of the deity on earth.

[49] A partial exception, however occurs in the case of three and of ten
lambs being produced at one birth. See below p. 18.

[50] I. e., of course, the head resembles that of a bull. See below p. 23
sq. and 27 sq.

[51] I. e., with a normal head.

[52] A variant reads, "the city will acquire sovereignty".

[53] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 37-38 of which again Pl. 36 is an extract.

[54] The term used throughout is =isbu= for which see above p. 13.

[55] The unusual number of alternative interpretations--though all
unfavorable--points to the compilation of the text from various sources in
which the sign was again entered with a different interpretation in each.
These varying interpretations are here united; and no doubt the priests
felt that there was safety in numbers. One of the seven prognosticated
events was quite certain to happen--at some time. The chief point was that
the sign was unfavorable.

[56] I. e., the stall of the owner of the mother lamb.

[57] As above, an unofficial and an official interpretation.

[58] I. e., displaced.

[59] I. e., of Babylonia or Assyria.

[60] I. e., a demoniac being or a monstrosity of some kind.

[61] I. e., of the owner of the mother lamb.

[62] I. e., the rudiments of what seems to be a second ear.

[63] Similarly, a second ear appearing below or above (?) the other one,
is a favorable sign; on the right side, therefore, favorable to you, on
the left favorable to the enemy, and, therefore, unfavorable to your side.

[64] There is inserted at this point an omen for the case that "a foetus
has eight (?) feet and two tails with unfavorable interpretations,
approach of an usurper, no unity in the land, the land will destroy its

[65] I. e., not one within the other--in all, therefore, three ears.

[66] Literally "full".

[67] The 'wide-eared man' (rapaš uzni) is the wise man. Ashurbanapal in
the subscript to the tablets of his library thanks the gods for having
'opened his ears wide', i. e. given him understanding etc.

[68] See the partial list of such texts, Jastrow, _Religion_ II 851 note

[69] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 21-22, with a duplicate Pl. 19 (K. 4132).

[70] For =marratum= "the rain-bow" see Jastrow, _Religion_ II 739 note 7
and 875, note 3. The "rain-bow" bird must have been one distinguished by
its manifold coloring. A lion-lamb with the head of a 'rainbow bird' was,
therefore, a young lamb with a large lion-like head, but showing various
hues and shades.

[71] The god of pestilence.

[72] An animal not yet identified.

[73] Low prices indicate hard times and are an unfavorable sign; high
prices are favorable. The gods in ancient Babylonia and Assyria appear to
have been on the side of the "Trusts".

[74] It is assumed that the abnormal birth is still-born, but in this
particular case the eyes are open.

[75] Such a monstrosity is known as Acephaly in modern nomenclature. See
Kitt, _Lehrbuch der pathologischen Anatomie der Haustiere_ (4 ed.) I, 72,
for illustrations of an =Acephalus bipes=.

[76] Known in modern nomenclature as Brachyprosopy. See Kitt, ib. I 87 sq.

[77] Presumably the mistress of the household in which the monstrosity was

[78] Perokormy--See the illustration in Kitt, ib. I 75 sq.

[79] Cross-breeding, in fact, is a comparatively rare phenomenon in the
animal world, limited to the horse and ass, horse and zebra, dog and wolf,
dog and fox, or jackal, lion and tiger, ox and buffalo or yak, hare and
rabbit, camel and dromedary, goat and mountain stag, and possibly lambs
and goats. See Ellenberger-Scheunert, _Lehrbuch der vergleichenden
Physiologie der Haussäugetiere_ (Berlin 1910) 703.

[80] See the enumeration in Jastrow, _Religion_ II 873 note 2, e. g.,
'eyes like those of a dog' in the case of a newly-born lamb (Cun. Texts
XVII Pl. 23, 14), 'foot like that of a lion' (Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 45,
34), 'head like that of a dog' (Cun. Texts, XXVIII Pl. 36, 15); in the
case of a double foetus 'both like a lion' or 'like a dog' (Cun. Texts
XXVII Pl. 48, 11-12) etc.

[81] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 22, obv. 13-25.

[82] Ideographic designation 'water dog'.

[83] The chief god of Nippur and the older head of the pantheon.

[84] I. e., an alternative interpretation.

[85] An unidentified animal.

[86] I. e., an alternative interpretation of a less official character.

[87] See Jastrow, _Religion_ II 879 note 9.

[88] Founder of the Isin dynasty (c. 2175 B. C.)--another illustration of
an historical omen.

[89] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 4, 15-39, completed by the duplicates Pl. 3,
22-27 and Pl. 1, 1-2 and Pl. 6. The complete translation of the tablet
with its various duplicates will be found in Jastrow, _Religion_ II

[90] An alternative 'unofficial' interpretation as in the instances noted
above pp. 15-16, 20 etc.

[91] Two interpretations, both unofficial--a rather unusual case.

[92] The rest of the line is broken off.

[93] The line is defective, but the omen was without doubt unfavorable.

[94] As in the case of the famous Siamese twins.

[95] Interpretation broken off, but it was no doubt the reverse of what
was entered in the preceding omen, i. e., unfavorable for the enemy and
therefore, favorable to your side.

[96] The end of the line can be restored by comparison with the preceding

[97] Restoration certain.

[98] I. e., the capital.

[99] Interpretation no doubt unfavorable.

[100] Restored by comparison with the second omen--above p. 29.

[101] Rest of the line broken off, but the interpretation was no doubt

[102] The end of the line supplied by Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 24, 16.

[103] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 241, 16 (K. 3881) to the close of the tablet.

[104] Above p. 19 seq.

[105] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 16, together with Pl. 17, 18--an extract from
the fuller tablet.

[106] I. e., of the child; and so of course in every case.

[107] Compare the omen in the case of the young of an animal, above p. 19.

[108] I. e., the father of the child.

[109] The 'left' side being unfavorable to the enemy is favorable to you.
We may, however, expect to find in a variant text 'A weakling will be born
in the enemy's house'.

[110] See preceding note.

[111] I. e., misplaced.

[112] I. e., protect it.

[113] =Agnathy= in modern nomenclature. See Birnbaum, _Klinik der
Mißbildungen_ 73.

[114] I. e., the upper lip falls over the lower one.

[115] I. e., the father of the child.

[116] I. e., the city in which the child was born.

[117] Of the same house.

[118] Presumably to the household in which the child was born.

[119] I. e., the mother.

[120] Variant 'the offspring', i. e., the newly born infant.

[121] I. e., there will be a political upheaval.

[122] This malformation of a child with a closed anus is frequently
referred to in Roman omens, e. g., Julius Obsequens, de prodigiis (ed.
Roßbach), §§ 26 and 40. See below p. 52.

[123] I. e., only the rudiments of a foot are to be seen.

[124] I. e., they are directly attached to the body without thighs.

[125] I. e., bent and deformed so that one cannot stand on it.

[126] Twisted legs as in the illustration in Jastrow's _Bildermappe zur
Rel. Babyl. und Assyr._ No. 35.

[127] As, e. g., Guinard, _Précis de Teratologie_ or Birnbaum, _Klinik der

[128] Cun. Texts XXVIII Pl. 34, with duplicate K 630 (Virolleaud,
_Fragments des Textes Divinatoires_ 9).

[129] I. e., a shapeless abortion suggesting =pudenda=.

[130] I. e., a miscarriage, shaped like a head.

[131] I. e., a shapeless mass.

[132] I. e., an embryo.

[133] I. e., a shapeless mass.

[134] I. e., the father. Note the five alternative interpretations
pointing again to the union of various collections of omens.

[135] The god of pestilence.

[136] I. e., the father of the child.

[137] In which the birth took place.

[138] =Aprosopy.= See above p. 25.

[139] In which the birth took place.

[140] The expression used is =tigri ili= 'a divine =tigru='--which I take
to be the Babylonian term for dwarf. See Jastrow, _Religion_ II 913 note

[141] Elsewhere we find the anomaly of a child born with a beard or with
hair on the chin referred to. See Jastrow, _Religion_ II 929.

[142] The talking infant (see also Jastrow, _Religion_ II 929 note 6)
occurs frequently as a prodigy in Roman literature. See Lycosthenes,
Prodigiorum ac Ostentorum Chronicon 113. 228 etc.

[143] See further Jastrow, _Religion_ II 928--infants born with one tooth,
with two teeth or a number of teeth. The omen is also found in Roman
literature, Livy, Historia XLI, 21; Pliny, Hist. Nat. VII, 15. King
Richard the Third is among the historical personages said to have been
born with teeth and which was regarded as an evil omen. (See Henry V, 3d
Part. Act V, 6. 53 and 75.)

[144] Nergal, the god of pestilence, is meant. The text adds as a note
'Such a being is called a divine =tigru='. See note 1 above.

[145] Cun. Texts XXVI Pl. 4 with various duplicates and 'extract' tablets.
See Jastrow, _Religion_ II 907, note 1.

[146] An unidentified animal.

[147] In another list of birth-omens a woman giving birth to a serpent is
interpreted that 'the king will increase in power' (Cun. Texts XXVIII Pl.
43, 9).

[148] =Alluttu=--described elsewhere (Cun. Texts XXVIII Pl. 46, 9), as a
fish with a thick head--probably, therefore, a dolphin.

[149] Such a malformation with the feet united and ending in the rudiments
of toes that resemble fish's tail is still called a 'Sirenformation' in
modern nomenclature. See Guinard, _Précis de Teratologie_ 366 with
illustrations fig. 178 and 179. See also Lycosthenes l. c. 142 and 316,
also Hirst and Piersol, Human Monstrosities 88 and Pl. VII (sireno-melus).

[150] The interpretation is broken off.

[151] Cun. Texts XXVIII Pl. 3, 10; where this comparison is introduced
with the interpretation that 'the king will be without a rival'.

[152] _L'astrologie Grecque_ IX.

[153] See numerous examples in Cun. Texts XXIII.

[154] See the writer's paper on 'The Liver and the Beginnings of Anatomy'
quoted on p. 1 note 1.

[155] On the basis of such passages as Phaedo, § 31. See, however, the
postcript on p. 80.

[156] See Scriptores Physiognomici Graeci et Latini (ed. Richard Foerster,
Leipzig 1903, 2 vols.) containing the treatises of Pseudo-Aristotle,
Polemon, Adamantius and others. See Chapter I of Polemon (ed. Foerster I
108) and Chapter II (170-198); Chapter II, 2 of Adamantius (349 sq.) for a
long enumeration of the resemblances between man and animals and the
conclusions to be drawn therefrom.

[157] 'Physiognomika' included in Foerster's edition I 5-91. See
Foerster's Prolegomena to his edition XIX, 2.

[158] I quote from the Latin ed. of 1593 (Hanovia).

[159] He also has a series of chapters on the voice, which are much more
reasonable in character because of the omission of any comparisons with
animals; and passes on to the hands, the breast, the belly and the thighs
and feet, and the general shape of the body.

[160] _Physiognomische Fragmente_ (Leipzig 1775-1778).

[161] _Von der Physiognomik_ (Leipzig 1772), 2. Stück p. 45.

[162] Fritz Neubert, _Die volkstümlichen Anschauungen über Physiognomik in
Frankreich bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters_ (Munich Dissertation 1910)

[163] See Jastrow _Religion_, II 704 sq.

[164] I quote Rossbach's edition in the Teubner Series.

[165] In the Babylonian-Assyrian birth-omens, such cases, expressed by the
phrase 'middle portion open', are very frequent, e. g., Cun. Text XXVII
Pl. 44 (K 3166); 47, 14-15; 44 etc.

[166] See above p. 39 and below p. 57.

[167] Above p. 40.

[168] In the same paragraph he records the birth of a serpent by a woman
as in Julius Obsequens § 57.

[169] Book I, 6.

[170] E. g., =cave tibi, Roma= (I, 6, 5) at the time of the Second Punic

[171] I, 6, 5. Further examples of all kinds of omens are found in Chap. 8
of the first book of the Memorabilia.

[172] Life of Julius Caesar § 61.

[173] De Divinatione I 41-42.

[174] Arnobius, Adversum Nationes VII 26 calls Etruria the =genetrix et
mater superstitionis=.

[175] See above p. 4.

[176] De Divinatione I 53.

[177] Cun. Texts XXIII Pl. 14, 4.

[178] De Divinatione I 53. Cicero does not specifically state that the
interpretation is due to Etruscan haruspices, but Thulin, _Etruskische
Disziplin_ III 116, properly concludes that Cicero who is discussing
Etruscan augury in the paragraph has Etruscan augurs in mind.

[179] See above p. 14 note 2. Among the Romans these two classes were
known as =ostenta publica= and =ostenta privata= (Thulin, _Etruskische
Disziplin_ III 86 and 116, 1).

[180] The phrase =bartu= or =bartu ina mâti= 'revolt' or 'revolt in the
country' occurs hundreds of times in the divination texts.

[181] See p. 29 and 31.

[182] See p. 31.

[183] See above p. 29 sq. Cicero also furnishes us (de Divinatione I 36)
with a most striking parallel between a Babylonian-Assyrian animal omen
and an Etruscan interpretation of the same omen. He tells us that the
nurse of the young Roscius observed how a serpent came and wound itself
around the sleeping child. On inquiry, the Haruspices declared that the
occurrence was an omen indicating that the child would become famous and
distinguished above his fellows. In the same way we find in the
Babylonian-Assyrian texts that 'if a serpent is found lying on a little
child, the child whether male or female, will acquire renown and riches'.
See Jastrow, _Religion_ II 782 and 942, 3.

[184] =Saturnalia= III 7, 2 also quoted by Servius, though in a slightly
modified form. See Thulin, _Etruskische Disziplin_ III 76 and 102.

[185] The chief colors in Babylonia-Assyrian omen texts are white, black,
yellow and dark red. See e. g., Cun. Texts XXVIII Pl. 32 (K. 3838 etc.),

[186] Cun. Texts XXVIII Pl. 19 (K. 13443), 5.

[187] =ḫud libbi=, literally 'joy of heart'.

[188] Cicero, De Divinatione I 41, who correctly explains the application
of =monstrum= to a malformation. For the etymology of =prodigium=, see
Walde, _Lateinisch-Etymologisches Wörterbuch_ s. v.

[189] De Generatione Animalium IV, 54. See above p. 44.

[190] He gives as illustrations a child born with the head of a ram or of
an ox; a calf born with a child's head, or a lamb with the head of an ox.
See further ib IV, 65 seq.

[191] De Generatione IV, 63. See above p. 44. He argues against the
possibility of such hybrid creatures (IV, 55), on the ground of the
varying length of pregnancy in the case of women, ewes, bitches, and cows.

[192] I, 6, de Prodigiis quae evenere Externis § 1. See also Herodotus,
VII 57 who represents the source of Valerius Maximus.

[193] Book I, 8 de Miraculis quae contigere Externis § 12.

[194] VII, 57.

[195] Varia Historia I 29. Aelian says that the story was told by 'the
children in Cos'--evidently a rationalistic supplement to the tale, dating
from a time when it was no longer considered possible to take such stories
seriously. The story had become, as we would say, 'an old wives' tale'.

[196] See above p. 24 sq. and Jastrow, _Religion_ II 875 sq.

[197] Herodotus I § 84.

[198] Herodotus I § 85; Cicero, De Divinatione I 53. The latter preserves
the tradition in its correct form =Croesi filium cum infans esset
locutum=. The omen consists in the fact that the =infant= speaks as in the
cases reported by Julius Obsequens (see above 52). In Herodotus the story
is perverted through the rationalistic touch that the son of Croesus was
dumb for many years (cf. also §§ 34 and 39) but suddenly acquired the
power of speech. The story loses its point by this modification. The
correct form of the story is also given by Lycosthenes, _Prodigiorum ac
Ostentorum Chronicon_ 65. The 'speaking' infant of which Wuelker,
_Prodigienwesen bei den Römern_ 20 gives six instances, was always
regarded as an ill omen, prognosticating some national misfortune.

[199] See above p. 39.

[200] See the writer's article 'The Liver as the Seat of the Soul' in
'Studies in the History of Religions in honor of C. H. Toy' 164 and
Jastrow, _Religion_ II 742. Several of the models are now in the Berlin
Museum, and will, it is hoped, soon be published.

[201] See Herbig's article on the 'Etruscan Religion' in Hastings'
Dictionary of Religion and Ethics. The possibility, indeed, that the
Etruscans belong to one of the Hittite groups is to be seriously
considered, though naturally the problem cannot be approached until
further advances in the decipherment of the Hittite inscriptions shall
have been made, following along the line of R. C. Thompson's recent
attempt "A New Development of the Hittite Hieroglyphics" (Oxford 1913),
which unquestionably marks considerable progress.

[202] See further Jastrow, _Religion_ II 320, 3.

[203] See above 26.

[204] Aristotle, de Generatione IV, 54 refers to a physiognomist who
traced back all such 'malformations' (as Aristotle calls them) to two or
three animals, and whose views he says met with much favor, the assumption
being that such hybrid beings were produced by the union between a woman
and an animal, or by crossing of animals. As a matter of fact intercourse
between a human being and an animal never produces results, and the
crossing of animals only in restricted cases, which do not enter into
consideration in the birth-omens. See above p. 26 note 1.

[205] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 29.

[206] Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 48.

[207] The name given to these demons. See Jastrow, _Bildermappe zur
Religion Babyloniens und Assyriens_ Nr. 62.

[208] See above p. 29 seq.

[209] In the Chronicle of Eusebius (ed. Schoene I 14, 18). See also
Zimmern, _Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament_ II 488 seq.

[210] See Ungnad's translation in Gressmann's _Altorientalische Texte und
Bilder_ I 8.

[211] E. g., horses with the heads of dogs (Cun. Texts XXVI Pl. 48, 9); an
=isbu= (young of animal) with human head (Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 29, 26 and
31, 8); infants with two faces, four hands and four feet (Cun. Texts XXVII
Pl. 8, 10, 21-22 (K. 7093)); human face and body of a =šedu=, i. e., a
body of a lion or bull with wings (Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 10, 23 == Pl. 8, 6
== Pl. 15,17); infant with male and female organs (Cun. Texts XXVIII Pl.
5, 11); with the face of an ass (Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 15, 12);
=isbu=--probably lamb--with feet of a lion (Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 45, 34);
horse with two tails and mane of lion (Cun. Texts XXVII Pl. 49, 3 (K.
4031)); horse with human head (Cun. Texts XXVIII Pl. 31, 7); animals with
two to seven heads (Cun. Texts XXVIII Pl. 33 (K. 6288 rev.)); =isbu= (here
probably a lamb) with the feet of a lion, head of dog in front, six feet
and bristles of a swine (Cun. Texts XXVIII Pl. 38, 13); with the feet of a
lion, head of a dog and tail of a swine (ib. 1. 15); with two heads, two
tails and feet like those of a dog (ib. 1. 17); two heads, two feet, hair
of a dog (ib. 1. 19), etc.

[212] Tablet IX.

[213] See Jastrow, _Bildermappe zur Geschichte Babyloniens und Assyriens_
Nos. 149, 150, 184 usw.

[214] See Zimmern, _Keilinschriften und das A. T._ II 503 sq.

[215] Jastrow ib. No. 120; other fanciful forms, Nos. 193-199.

[216] See Jastrow, _Bildermappe_ (Gießen 1912), Nos. 36-47 (on Boundary
Stones), 52-53 (dragons), 55-60 (winged human figures and winged human
figure with eagle face), 61 (bull with human head), 62 (winged bull with
human face), 63-64 (winged horses, winged bulls, winged sphinxes, winged
human figures).

[217] See Luschan, _Ausgrabungen in Sendschirli_ IV 330 sq. and 338 sq.
and Pl. LV-LVI.

[218] Jastrow, _Bildermappe_ No. 32 winged hippocentaur with two heads
(man and lion) with scorpion tail and horse's tail and scorpions attached
to the forelegs; No. 33, upright hippocentaur, head, arms and upper part
of the body that of a man, lower part of the body that of a horse with two
feet. Similar figures appear on seal cylinders, e. g. Ward, Seal Cylinders
of Western Asia, 382, and Clay, Dated Cassite Archives, 15 and Pl. XV, No.
6. See Baur, Centaurs in Ancient Art pp. 1-4. A vast amount of material
bearing on the representation of all kinds of monstrous beings in
Babylonian, Assyrian and Hittite art will be found in Ward's valuable work
just quoted, particularly in chapters LI to LV and LXVII to LXIX, but also
chapters VII-XI; XV (Bird-man!) XVIII, XXXVI and XXXVIII.

[219] See e. g. Hirst and Piersol, _Human Monstrosities_ 116 Pl. XXII.

[220] See above p. 40 note 4.

[221] This birth-omen 'if a woman gives birth to a head' actually occurs
in the Babylonian-Assyrian collections, e. g., Cun. Texts XXVIII Pl. 34,
24 (K. 8274). See above p. 37.

[222] See Jastrow, _Religion_ II 943, 1. The vulture eats the liver
because it is the seat of life. The renewal of the liver is the renewal of
life. Prometheus thus suffers perpetual death and is yet condemned to
eternal renewal of life. This view of the liver is incidentally a proof of
the high antiquity of the myth.

[223] See Jastrow, _Religion_ II 320 seq.

[224] Vol. 38 (190), 209-311.

[225] Schwalbe, _Mißgeburten und Mißbildungen bei Menschen und Tieren_ I
39 also favors this view.

[226] See p. 4 and Jastrow, _Religion_ II 740 seq.

[227] See Jastrow, _Religion_ II 937, 2. In Se-ma Tsien's _Memoires
Historiques_ tr. by Chavannes I 13, there is a reference to a monster
which had the body of a man and the head of an ox, and which was born to a
woman through a dragon.

[228] See Spiegelberg, _Geschichte der ägyptischen Kunst_ 17; Maspero _Art
in Egypt_ 40.

[229] _The Evolution of the Aryan_ 101.

[230] Pointed out by Hommel, _Grundriß der Geographie und Geschichte des
alten Orients_ I 113-129 who, however, includes much in his discussion
that is doubtful, and draws conclusions that are entirely too far

[231] See Maspero, _Art in Egypt_ 80.

[232] _Geschichte der ägyptischen Kunst_ 35--perhaps to Amenemhat III of
the 12th dynasty.

[233] Hist. Nat. VII 3.

[234] See also Phlegon, Mirabilia (ed. Keller) IV-X including (VI) the
case of a woman turning into a man in the days of Emperor Claudius at

[235] See Joseph Jacobs, Introduction to his edition of the _Fables of
Bidpai_ (London 1888) XXXIX-LI.

[236] See the references in Ernest Martin, _Histoire des Monstres depuis
l'antiquité jusqu'à nos jours_ (Paris 1880) 7 seq. Martin's book is a mine
of valuable information on this subject.

[237] Banquet of the Seven Sages § 3. The story is placed in the days of
Periander and Thales, and relates the remarkable birth of a centaur in the
herd of Periander. Thales is asked to examine the strange creature, and
after doing so asks the diviner Diocles, whether he does not intend to
make some expiation in order to avert the anger of the gods. The diviner
answers 'Why not?', and assures Thales that the birth of the monster is an
omen of discord and sedition. Thales smiled and looking at the young
shepherd of Periander in charge of the herd advised Periander to keep a
look-out on his young men, or to provide wives for them. The intimation
reflects little credit on Thales' knowledge of the processes of nature.

[238] See for actually occurring human monstrosities, Hirst and Peirsol,
_Human Monstrosities_; Kitt, _Pathologische Anatomie der Haustiere_ (4th
ed.) I Chap. III and Guinard's _Précis de Teratologie_ (Paris 1893), e. g.
in the last named work, a lamb without ears (168), an infant with a caudal
appendix (82), club-foot (131--still called pied d'equin), six toes (128),
a pig with five divisions of the hoof, a lamb with four divisions, a dog
with six etc. (129).

[239] Hist. Nat. VII § 3.

[240] Also such omens as the speaking infant (113. 118), while still in
the womb (175), the talking ox (65. 113. 118. 125. 129. 140. 146. 153.
159. 166. etc.), by the side of the two-headed swine (129), three-footed
mule or horse (150. 157. 166), a five-footed horse or mule (131. 136. 171.
176), two-headed calf (180. 181. 308), lamb with swine's head (135. 136),
swine with human head (124. 136. 138), with human hands and feet (165),
two-headed lamb (138. 139. 197. 198), boy with elephant's head (125),
infant without eyes or nose (141), without arms or feet (142), two-headed
boy (155. 177. 315. 317), with four hands and four legs (163. 165. 172.
317), with three legs (168 and 169), with three legs and three hands
(199), with four legs (175), androgynous infants (125. 135. 170. 175. 181.
187. 196. 198), twins united at the back etc., (198. 284), a child with
beard and four eyes (272), a woman giving birth to an elephant (201), to a
serpent (209-210), a woman giving birth to seven children in days of
Algemundus, first king of Lombards (284), a boy without eyes, no arms and
a fish tail instead of feet (316) etc.

[241] Conrad Gessner, _Allgemeines Thierbuch_ (Deutsch von Conrad Foerer,
Frankfurt 1669) 19.

[242] p. 582. The chronicle is brought down in fact to the year 1557.

[243] p. 32-68.

[244] _Christliche Mystik_ III 440 seq.

[245] Le Diable (Paris 1864).

[246] In the doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary,
this factor is involved.

[247] See above 44.

[248] P. 98. Chapter XII, of Martin's work, ('Les Monstres Celebres'),
furnishes many supplements to Lycosthenes work, including some interesting
examples of Hermaphrodites.

[249] Martin p. 100.

[250] The mummy was found in the cemetery reserved for the sacred animals,
from which Martin concludes that the Egyptians shared the general belief
in monsters as due to the combination of the human with the animal. It
would be interesting in view of the present stage of Egyptological
research to determine the exact character of the mummy which was thus
destined to play so important a part in the history of modern medicine.
See Martin, ib Introduction p. V.

[251] See Guinard, _Précis de Teratologie_ (Paris 1854) in which a full
account of the theory of St. Hilaire and of those who followed in his
footsteps is given.

[252] P. T. Barnum, the famous American showman, in his Memoirs tells in a
most frank manner of the manufacture of his monsters--living and dead.

[253] Hist. Nat. VII 3.

[254] Amsterdamer Weekblad voor Nederland, May 28, 1911. The illustration
attached to the description reveals the bogus character of the 'monster'.

  Religionsgeschichtliche Versuche und Vorarbeiten
  begründet von
  Albrecht Dieterich und Richard Wünsch

  Richard Wünsch und Ludwig Deubner
  in Münster i. W.              in Königsberg i. Pr.

  Vierzehnter Band


  Verlag von Alfred Töpelmann (vorm. J. Ricker) in Gießen

Inhaltsverzeichnis des vierzehnten Bandes

Linck, Kurt: =De antiquissimis veterum quae ad Iesum Nazarenum spectant
testimoniis= (1. Heft).

Köchling, Josef: =De coronarum apud antiquos vi atque usu= (2. Heft).

Scheftelowitz, Isidor: =Das stellvertretende Huhnopfer= (3. Heft).

Dirichlet, Gustav Lejeune: =De veterum macarismis= (4. Heft).

Jastrow, jr., Morris: =Babylonian-Assyrian Birth Omens= (5. Heft).

Transcriber's Notes:

Passages in italics are indicated by _italics_.

Superscripted characters are indicated by {superscript}.

Gesperrt text is indicated by =gesperrt=.

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