23

Bulls have 4 legs. These statues have 5 legs. Why?

Photo of a lamassu

Museum sign, transcribed below

Khorsabad

The Palace of Sargon

This area mainly contains sculptures from the city and palace of Khorsabad, built for the Assyrian king Sargon II (721-705 BC). The pair of human-headed winged bulls stood originally at one of the gates of the citadel, as magic guardians against misfortune.

  • 1
    This is not a horse. – Alex Aug 3 '15 at 2:04
  • 2
    I know but it's horse based – Stein Aug 3 '15 at 6:56
  • 14
    Bulls have 4 legs. These statues have 5 legs. Why? Bulls also do not have human heads – ojonugwa ochalifu Aug 3 '15 at 13:02
  • 4
    They have five legs when they're happy – Duncan Aug 4 '15 at 23:52
  • Lol.I see what you did there – ojonugwa ochalifu Aug 6 '15 at 6:06
48

According to Wikipedia,

The Assyrians typically prominently placed lamassu at the entrances of cities and palaces. From the front they appear to stand, and from the side, walk.

Something confirmed by the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art:

The sculptor gave these guardian figures five legs so that they appear to be standing firmly when viewed from the front but striding forward when seen from the side.

The statue is called a lamassu, and it's Assyrian, not Egyptian.

10

I think that if you view the statue from head-on, you only see the front two legs. If you view the statue from the side, you see four. At that time, they probably couldn't just clear away all the rest of the rock so that you could see four legs from any direction.

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